A fresh round of funding for exploration in Western Australia is expected to boost the industry and help continue a recent surge in gold exploration spending.
With $5.17 million on offer in Round 12 of the Exploration Incentive Scheme’s Co-funded Exploration Drilling Program, the Department of Mines and Petroleum has selected 48 companies and prospectors to receive co-funding for innovative exploration drilling projects.
The successful applicants were announced yesterday, including Agnew Gold Mining Company, Anglo American, Hanking Gold and Northern Star.
The Exploration Incentive Scheme has so far funded more than 590 projects in WA, responsible for more than 430 kilometres of drilling across 11 rounds of funding.
Funding will continue with $10 million committed each year up to June 2017.
DMP’s Geological Survey of Western Australia Executive Director Dr Rick Rogerson said the program was in its eighth year, with more than 20 major finds thanks to co-funded drilling.
“The Nova nickel project, which will be an operating mine next year, is the stand-out discovery of the past few years,” he said.
“Strong recent finds include nickel by Panoramic Resources at its Savannah North project, zinc at Millennium by Encounter Resources, and gold at Alloy Resources' Horse Well project and at Gold Road Resources’ Gruyere discovery in the Yamarna greenstone belt.”
The Co-funded Drilling Program refunds up to 50 per cent of direct drilling costs with caps of $150,000 for a multi-hole project, $200,000 for a single deep hole, and $30,000 for a prospector’s project.
Payments are made to successful applicants after completion of drilling and submission of reports which are made available to the public on the department’s WAMEX database after a six-month confidentiality period.
The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) CEO Simon Bennison welcomed the new round of funding, saying the scheme was highly regarded by industry, and that AMEC would advocate for continuation beyond June 2017.
“Independent research has also highlighted the value the program provides to the State with every $1 million invested in the EIS program generating $10.3 million in direct benefits for the State,” he said.
“Sourcing capital is extremely challenging in the current market conditions where investors are extremely risk adverse and not investing in exploration.”
The Australian Bureau of Statistics last week released details of exploration spending in the September quarter, which revealed a jump in spending on gold exploration of 19.2 per cent, in real terms an increase of $21.6 million.
Coal exploration saw an increase of 12.2 per cent or $6.1 million, and overall mineral exploration rose 14.5 per cent or $50 million up to $394 million.
However, greenfields exploration increased by only 0.9 per cent, or $1.0 million.
Total metres drilled fell to 7.7 per cent lower than the September 2014 quarter, and represents the lowest drilling activity since mid-2009 during the Global Financial Crisis.
Greenfields drilling fell by 22.1 per cent in the September quarter, while brownfields rose by 11.8 per cent.