Queensland coal industry enjoys exploration surge

The Queensland resources sector is experiencing increased exploration spending, particularly in the coal sector, according to a report from the Queensland Exploration Council (QEC).

The QEC’s 2018 Exploration Scorecard found that exploration has increased in the Queensland coal sector for the first time since 2011-12 — up 27 per cent on the previous year — while mineral exploration expenditure increased by 35 per cent over the year.

The report also stated that industry sentiment was at its most positive level since the QEC began the practice of publishing annual exploration scorecards in 2011.

The scorecard broke down industry sentiment into 14 categories, six of which showed net positive sentiment and six of which showed net negative sentiment (plus two neutral factors).

The five categories that received a net positive sentiment were resources prospectivity; geoscientific data; government/departmental assistance; community perceptions of the industry; access to investment capital; and equipment availability.

Eight-year trends also showed “marked improvement” in exploration permit processes, departmental assistance, industry perceptions of social licence to operate, and pre-competitive geoscientific data.

According to Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive officer Ian Macfarlane, this year’s report built on last year’s “clear turning point” for the Queensland exploration sector.

Coal pricing has also improved since last year. The metallurgical coal price is at its highest annual average rate in the last nine years, up 6 per cent on 2017. The benchmark price for thermal coal is also up 19 per cent on last year’s average.

“It’s particularly pleasing to see that this year’s survey showed the highest level of positive sentiment in the industry since the scorecard began in 2011,” said QEC chair Brad John.

“For the first time in the scorecard’s history, explorers were positive about their access to investment capital and sentiment towards policy uncertainty also greatly improved.

“Our industry has worked hard with the Queensland Government’s Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy to improve the exploration permit process and we are now reaping the benefits.”