Overview of the Australian Drilling market

Presentation given at a Diamond Drilling workshop organised by the Central Victorian Branch of the AusIMM, Avoca, July 2022


This presentation was part of a one-day workshop (titled “Drilling with Diamonds”) on the practical aspects of setting up and managing a drilling program / drilling rig.

It discusses in detail the number of holes & metres drilled in Australia by rig type (core and non-core), target commodity, location (by State) and market segment (exploration, new-projects and mine-site) over the period 2000-2021.

The data is drawn from a detailed analysis of anonymised data from the individual State Geological Surveys , plus internally generated data from MinEx Consulting. As such, it goes into much more detail than that provided in the Australian Government Statistics (ABS 8412.0) on exploration activities.

The key findings are:

  • In 2021 a total of 13.2 million metres was drilled on exploration targets in Australia. 86% of this was in Western Australia, followed by Queensland (7%)
  • In 2021 diamond drilling accounted for 5.0 million metres, closely followed by Reverse Circulation (RC) with 4.9 million metres, with “Other” (mainly RAB and Auger drilling) accounting for 3.3 million metres. See Figure 1 below.
  • Over the last two decades diamond drilling’s market share has grown from 18% to 38% (as measured in terms of metres drilled)
  • All up, in 20201, 178,000 exploration holes were drilled in Australia. 17,000 (or ~10%) were diamond. The lower figure is because diamond holes are, on average much longer/deeper than RC or Other holes ( in 2021 of the metres was diamond drilling (295 metres versus 80 and 33 metres respectively)
  • Based on the data over the last 20 years, the average depth of diamond drilling is increasing by 40-50 metres per decade. This reflects the move towards exploring under progressively deeper cover in Australia
  • The main commodity of interest was gold
  • MinEx forecasts that the total market for drilling in Australia will grow slowly over the next decade

FIGURE 1 : Estimated Metres Drilled by Type : Exploration: Australia : 2000-2021

  • Although the “glamorous” end of the business is drilling on grassroots exploration targets, the market for mine-site drilling is of similar size (see Figure 2 below).
  • MinEx forecasts that the total market for drilling in Australia will grow slowly over the next decade

FIGURE 2 : Estimated Metres Drilled by Market Segment : Australia : 2000-2030


As the Mine-Site drilling segment is primarily focused on extending existing known deposits and converting Resources-into-Reserves, the ABS does not consider it to be exploration-related. As such, the resulting metres drilled at the Mine-Site are not captured in the published Government statistics.

0 comments on “Overview of the Australian Drilling marketAdd yours →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *