More mineral explores will have access to some of the technology that the world’s second-largest mining company as used to find new deposits.
Bloomberg reported that Rio Tinto, which spent $1.7 billion on greenfield exploration in the past decade, is offering competitors access to its x-ray and laser technology to analyze their rock samples for trace elements, with the aim of spurring new finds and sharing in the spoils.
The moves comes as exploration has slowed down with the lowest number of new discoveries last year in about 20 years. Rio Tinto cut its own exploration spending by $1.2 billion in the past two years while focusing on only on high-value targets, Chief Executive Officer Sam Walsh said.
Rio Tinto will provide free testing of rocks chips or drill hole samples from exploration ventures in Australia. In return, explorers must agree that Rio Tinto would become a partner on any significant finds.
“We need to agree that should it be of interest, we have a pathway to doing something commercial with each other,” Stephen McIntosh, London-based Rio Tinto’s head of exploration said in a July 31 interview in Melbourne. “It can be anyone, from the lone prospector even through to the bigger companies, we’ve no issue on partnering with other majors.”
Outside of China and the former Soviet Union, mining companies found 11 significant new deposits of non-bulk minerals, including copper to nickel, in 2014, according to Richard Schodde, managing director of Melbourne-based MinEx Consulting, whose clients include BHP Billiton Ltd., the largest mining company. That’s the lowest total on record in data back to 1995, he said.
Discoveries have slumped 83 percent since 2004, even as spending on exploration soared 125 percent to $9.8 billion in the same period, Schodde said.
“You’ve got to kiss ten thousand frogs to find one princess,” Schodde said by phone. “The challenge for Rio will be filtering and prioritizing the opportunities that come through.”
McIntosh will attend the Australian mining sector’s annual Diggers and Dealers forum starting Monday in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, seeking to woo exploration companies.