Overview of Exploration in the Asia Pacific Region – the rising importance of China

Presentation at the Mines & Money Conference, Hong Kong, April 2018

This is updated version of a presentation I gave at the SEG Conference in September 2017. This version includes additional exploration and discovery performance data plus some notes on the size of the mining and exploration scene in China.

Key observations were:

  • Asia covers 33.4% of the World’s land mass. China accounts for 7%.
  • There are currently over 8150 significant-sized non-bulk mineral deposits in the World. 2213 (27%) of these are in Asia. This includes 880 (11%) deposits in China.
  • Over the last decade (2008-2017) Asia accounted for 29% of the global expenditures on non-bulk mineral exploration. Most of this was in China (18%) – making it the largest explorer in the World.
  • Over the period 2007-2016:
    • More than 750 discoveries were made in the World, including 226 (30%) in Asia and 132 (18%) in China.
    • Only 15 Tier-1 deposits were found in the World. Five (33%) of these were in Asia – all of them in China.
    • The Value/Cost ratio (i.e. “bang-per-buck”) for non-bulk exploration in the World was 0.56. The average for Asia was 0.57; China was 0.72.
  • In 2016 China:
    • Was The No.1 producer of 40 mineral commodities in World – most notably gold, lead/zinc and rare earths.
    • Had over 10,000 mines (though most are small in in size).
    • Achieved total sales revenues of US$214 billion – which was larger than the combined total for Australia and Canada ($154 billion).
    • Employed 6 million workers (half of them in coal mining).
    • Had 2691 registered exploration enterprises – most of which are State-owned ore private unlisted companies.
    • Spent US$2317m on mineral exploration (including bulks). This larger than the combined spend of Australia and Canada ($2287m).
    • Drilled 9.13 million metres – comparable to the combined total for Australia and Canada (10.71 million metres).

Given the above, China is a leading player in the global exploration and mining sector. Although it is very difficult for foreign companies to operate there, any change in China’s exploration efforts and discovery performance (and resulting future mineral production) will have a profound effect in its trade-flow with other countries. Something to consider when making long term forecasts on metal supply and prices!

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