Exploration expenditure data reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics paints a grim picture of mineral exploration for Queensland, relative to the rest of Australia.
Data were reviewed by Brisbane-based member Doug Brewster.
Queensland attracted only 7% of all exploration investment in Australia in 2019, continuing a long decline in exploration expenditure in the state. Queensland attracted 23% of national minerals exploration investment 30 years ago. The figures examined have been adjusted for CPI.
A steep decrease that ended in 1998 is interpreted to be associated with a moratorium on granting of new exploration licences associated with the Wik native title decision, from which minerals exploration expenditure has struggled to recover. The mining and exploration boom between 2005 and 2012 was all about coal in Queensland.
New South Wales is outperforming Queensland. The state attracted about 11% of national minerals exploration expenditure in 2019, up from only 6% 30 years ago.
Minerals exploration in New South Wales appears to be benefitting from relatively recent discoveries in the Cobar Basin (e.g. Mallee Bull) and the Lachlan Fold Belt (Boda). Access to land regulations in New South Wales appear to have had little impact on mineral exploration expenditure.
Mineral exploration in South Australia, after a purple patch during the 2005-2012 boom, perhaps on the back off discoveries including Sovereign Hill and Carrapateena, appears to have gone back to sleep.
Western Australia is the favoured destination for mineral exploration investment in Australia, reflected in the state’s consistently high rankings in the annual Fraser Institute survey of exploration investment intentions in recent years. Western Australia is no less affected by native title than any other state. It does, however, have a dedicated Tenure and Native Title Branch, with liaison officers to assist explorers with access and land use agreements.
Discoveries seem to be the greatest driver of future exploration investment. Equitable native title and land access processes also appear to be important considerations for explorers in determining where to invest both exploration capital and energy.