There’s increasing exploration activity in Queensland across the coal, energy, base and precious metals sectors.
This was despite COVID and a drop in coal and petroleum prices, said Queensland Exploration Council (QEC) chair Kim Wainwright.
According to the QEC’s 10th annual exploration scorecard, launched online today, council members invested more than $640 million in the sector in 2019-20, with more than half expecting to increase or maintain activity or expenditure in Queensland over the next 12 months.
The figures revealed growing industry optimism in the state’s exploration industry, Ms Wainwright said.
“Prices for base and precious metals have recovered well since the onset of COVID in March, gold is trading at historically high prices despite a mid-year price slide and copper has remained stable throughout the pandemic,” she said.
“Coal and gas exploration spending grew by 61 per cent and 22 per cent respectively in 2019-20 – totalling almost $460 million – despite price falls in both commodities so there is definitely a feeling of growth and optimism in the sector.
“More than $181 million was also invested in exploration for base metals like copper, zinc and lead and on prospecting for critical minerals such as cobalt, gold, vanadium, lithium and rare earth minerals, some of which are used in batteries and other new technologies and defence systems.”
The $27 million in State Government funding committed to projects such as the Collaborative Exploration Initiative had stimulated innovation and increased activity in locations including North Queensland and the Wide Bay area, said Ms Wainwright.
“Explorers have a golden opportunity to promote Queensland as a safe haven for exploration and mining because of its resource-rich and relatively COVID-safe status,” she said.
Explorers had given the state government a tick for the quality of its engagement with industry.
While there were some areas in which the QEC would like to see improvements – such as more streamlined application processes and the resolution of some key land access issues – the scorecard process showed members had experienced no major regulatory barriers to growth over the past 12 months, Ms Wainwright said.
“This bodes well for working with the government over the next 12 months to progressively implement the Resources Industry Development Plan,” she said.
Ongoing mineral exploration was critical to Queensland’s future prosperity Ms Wainwright said.
“With global demand for critical minerals set to increase, Queensland has a unique opportunity to establish itself as a key region for exploration and investment,” she said.
“Exploration is all too often forgotten, but without it there would be no mines and all the associated long-term benefits that flow from the resources industry to the state economy and the community.
“We need to keep exploring to make sure the resources industry remains buoyant and well-financed and can sustain an ongoing pipeline of opportunities in Queensland from which we all benefit.”