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QEC: $640 million investment in exploration in QLD

Photo of QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane, QEC Chair Kim Wainwright and event sponsor BDO Partner Richard Swaby at QEC exploration scorecard launch

Exploration activity across coal, petroleum, gold and copper deposits in Queensland continues to rise despite COVID and a drop in coal and petroleum prices, Queensland Exploration Council (QEC) chair Kim Wainwright said.

According to the QEC’s 10th annual exploration scorecard, launched online, council members invested more than $640 million in the sector in 2019-20, with more than half expecting to increase or maintain activity or expenditure in Queensland over the next 12 months.

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Ms Wainwright said the figures reveal growing industry optimism in the state’s exploration industry.

“Prices for base and precious metals have recovered well since the onset of COVID in March, gold is trading at historically high prices despite a mid-year price slide and copper has remained stable throughout the pandemic,” Ms Wainwright said.

“Coal and gas exploration spending grew by 61 per cent and 22 per cent respectively in 2019-20 – totalling almost $460 million – despite price falls in both commodities so there is definitely a feeling of growth and optimism in the sector.

“More than $181 million was also invested in exploration for base metals like copper, zinc and lead and on prospecting for critical minerals such as cobalt, gold, vanadium, lithium and rare earth minerals, some of which are used in batteries and other new technologies and defence systems.”

Ms Wainwright said the $27 million in State Government funding committed to projects such as the Collaborative Exploration Initiative had stimulated innovation and increased activity in locations such as North Queensland and the Wide Bay area. 

“Explorers have a golden opportunity to promote Queensland as a safe haven for exploration and mining because of its resource-rich and relatively COVID-safe status,” she said.

In welcome news for the State Government, for the second year in a row, explorers have given the government a big tick for the quality of its engagement with industry.

Ms Wainwright said while there were some areas in which the QEC would like to see improvements – such as more streamlined application processes and the resolution of some key land access issues – the scorecard process showed members had experienced no major regulatory barriers to growth over the past 12 months.

“This bodes well for working with the government over the next 12 months to progressively implement the Resources Industry Development Plan,” she said.

Ms Wainwright said ongoing mineral exploration is critical to Queensland’s future prosperity. 

“With global demand for critical minerals set to increase, Queensland has a unique opportunity to establish itself as a key region for exploration and investment,” she said.

“Exploration is all too often forgotten, but without it there would be no mines and all the associated long-term benefits that flow from the resources industry to the state economy and the community.

“We need to keep exploring to make sure the resources industry remains buoyant and well-financed and can sustain an ongoing pipeline of opportunities in Queensland from which we all benefit.”

The QEC is an initiative of the Queensland Resources Council and focuses on investment attraction and promotion of Queensland’s exploration industry.  Established in 2010, the QEC is a not-for-profit, non-government organisation that sits within the QRC alongside the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA).

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AMSJ Nov 2021