The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Geoscience Australia (GA) have both pointed to a resources and energy sector that is in good health following a record $248 billion in exports last year.
The ABS, which released quarterly statistics for the December 2018 quarter, revealed that total exploration spending increased marginally by 0.4 per cent in the quarter to $439.9 million, with Western Australia being the biggest contributor to this period of growth.
Petroleum exploration spend increased considerably in the same period by 13.6 per cent ($42 million) to $349.9 million.
INPEX’s onshore Ichthys liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in the Northern Territory and Arrow Energy’s $10 billion Surat gas project have contributed significantly to this growth.
Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA responded to the results positively, with head of policy and public affairs Tom Reid saying the strong growth in exploration showed high confidence among investors.
“This is overwhelmingly positive for the broader community, given the resources and energy industry is a source of high-skilled, high-paying jobs and generates significant taxes and royalties to national revenues,” he said.
Geoscience Australia, meanwhile, has identified Australia as a top-five global producer of 20 out of the 34 listed important commodities, and a leader in nine of them, in its latest Australia’s Identified Mineral Resources (AIMR) report.
The categories in which Australia leads in terms of both resource volume and production include iron ore and rutile (a product of heavy mineral sands).
In terms of resource volume, Australia also leads for lead, zircon, zinc, nickel, tantalum, gold and uranium, though it is not the most prominent producer of these resources.
Conversely, Australia is the world’s leading producer of lithium and bauxite but places second for bauxite resources (behind Guinea) and third for lithium resources (behind Chile and China).
Australia is also the second largest producer of gold, behind China but ahead of Russia. Australia achieved record gold production of 317 tonnes in 2018, breaking a 21-year record.
The Australian Government laid out plans to boost mineral exploration with the release of its National Resources Statement last month, which detailed plans for future investment
Australian Geoscience Council (AGC) president Bill Shaw said Australian producers would need to explore deeper underground to access the nation’s hidden mineral fields, including minerals to support a developing renewables boom.
“Bipartisan support is crucial to ensure we champion new exploration approaches, new technologies, extremely accurate data collection and modelling. Not surprisingly, this requires significant long-term investment and the AGC seeks joint bipartisan commitment that will bring renewed confidence,” Shaw said.
“If Australia is to benefit from the huge demand for the minerals supporting sustainable technologies — copper, cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite and the rare earth metals needed for solar panels, electric vehicles and the batteries they need for storing renewable energy — significant investment will be required in new technologies and approaches to uncover ʻ harder-to-findʼ minerals.”