Worldwide nonferrous metals exploration budgets down 25 percent in 2014

October 22, 2014

The estimated worldwide budget for nonferrous metals exploration dropped by 25 percent in 2014, according to data compiled for the forthcoming 25th edition of SNL Metals & Mining’s “Corporate Exploration Strategies” study.

The estimated worldwide total budget for nonferrous metals exploration dropped to US$11.36 billion in 2014 from US$15.19 billion in 2013. SNL Metals & Mining’s 2014 exploration data and analysis are based on information collected from almost 3,500 mining and exploration companies worldwide, of which almost 2,000 had exploration budgets for 2014. The companies, each budgeting at least $100,000, budgeted a total of $10.74 billion for nonferrous exploration in 2014. Including SNL estimates for budgets that could not be obtained, the 2014 worldwide exploration budget comes to $11.36 billion. Nonferrous exploration refers to expenditures related to precious and base metals, diamonds, uranium and some industrial minerals; it specifically excludes iron ore, aluminum, coal, and oil and gas.

Higher operating and capital costs, lower ore grades, uncertain demand for commodities and investor discontent have required major companies to focus on a return to healthy margins after years of growth-oriented spending. To that end, the majors have been divesting noncore assets and cutting back on capital project and exploration spending, which has led to an unsurprising 25 percent drop in the majors’ exploration budget total in 2014. The juniors continue to battle lackluster investor interest, which has forced the group to rein in spending in order to conserve funds. The juniors’ total exploration budget fell 29 percent year over year in 2014 after falling 39 percent in 2013, dropping their share of the overall budget total to 32 percent from a high of 55 percent in 2007.

Exploration allocations for all targets except platinum group metals decreased in 2014. Although gold remains the most attractive target, gold budgets declined for the second consecutive year — dropping 31 percent to $4.57 billion — to account for the metal's lowest share of worldwide exploration budgets since 2009 at just 43 percent. Despite base metals budgets falling by US$1 billion, their collective share of total budgets increased 2 percent to reach the highest level since 2008. Base metals and gold allocations have a consistently inverse relationship in terms of their shares of overall budgets.

To read the full report, visit the SNL Metals & Mining webpage.


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