Dip in gold drilling puts brakes on exploration activity

Three of the four exploration metrics measured by S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Pipeline Activity Index (PAI) decreased between July and August.

The declining metrics include drilling activity, initial resources and positive project milestones.

These results were partially offset by an increase in significant base metals financings, largely driven by Chinese investment of $US511 million ($762 million) in Ivanhoe Mines.

The fall in PAI was largely driven by a fall in gold drilling, falling to 116 from 151, while base metals PAI rose to 58 from 48.

The total number of projects reporting drill results also fell to 193 from 207.

Gold drilling fell back to benchmark levels set earlier this year, falling 19 per cent or by 28 projects.

In falling by 28 projects, or 19 per cent, drilling for gold essentially fell back to benchmark levels set earlier in the year.

Despite the fall in the PAI, metals prices were up for the third consecutive month in August, as S&P’s Exploration Price Index (EPI) increased to 131 from 126.

The EPI measures the relative change in precious and base metals prices, weighted by the percentage of overall exploration spending for each metal to determine its relative importance to the industry.

The indexed price rose gold, silver, nickel, cobalt, platinum and molybdenum, while decreasing for zinc and copper.

There were 181 financings completed in August, rising slightly from 180 in July. However, the amount raised was almost double with $US1.03 billion compared to $US524 million in July.

Financings focused on gold mines and projects slid 18 per cent in August to $US303 million.

The investment in Ivanhoe pushed base and other metals financings to an 11-month high of $US688 million.

Mirroring the decline in the PAI, mining equities declined in August as S&P’s aggregate market value of the industry’s listed companies, based on 2,391 firms, was down six per cent month over month at $US1.34 trillion.

The aggregate market cap of the industry’s top 100 companies also decreased by six per cent in August to $US1.11 trillion. The number of tracked mining companies remains at a 10-year low, declining steadily from a high of 2921 companies in March 2012.

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