Exploration : Australia vs The World

Presentation given at the 2023 International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) Conference, Sydney, October 2023

This presentation compares Australia’s discovery performance over the last two decades against the World. It includes a special case study looking at the size & performance of local and overseas explorers in Australia and Canada.

In short, Australia did well.

The key findings of the current presentation are:

  • In 2022 exploration expenditures are only half what they were in 2012 (namely $16.1 billion versus $42.1 billion, both in constant June 2023 US Dollars).
  • Over the period 2012-21 Australia accounted for 12% of the global spend on exploration.  
  • Currently ~50 deposits (>=”Moderate” in-size) are found each year in the World.  This is half the rate prevailing prior to 2005.
  • It now costs ~US$200m to make a discovery, up from $65 million (in constant June 2023 Dollars) prior to 2005.
  • Over the period 2012-21 Australia accounted for 18% of all discoveries by number.
  • Most of the wealth (73%) created by exploration is associated with Tier1 & 2 discoveries.
  • Over the last decade 19 Tier 1 deposits were found in the World – 5 of these were in Australia.
  • Over the last decade the World spent $196b on exploration and generated $135b of value … giving a  value-to-cost (or “bang-per-buck”) of 0.69.   Australia and Africa were much better at 1.19.  Canada was 0.78
  • Given the above Australia captured 22% of the value created by the global exploration industry 

The presentation also included a Case Study looking at the flow of exploration funds in Australia over the last decade. It specifically looked at the expenditures and performance of local and foreign companies, as well as Australian companies exploring overseas. A similar study was done for Canada.

To my knowledge this is the first time such a study has been done.

The key results are:

  • Over the period 2012-2021, US$19.3b was spent on exploration# in Australia – $14.3b from local companies and $5.0b from foreign companies. Australian explorers also spent $12.1b on projects overseas.
  • During this time a total of 134 new deposits were found in Australia – 119 by local companies and 15 by foreign companies. Australian explorers also made 105 discoveries overseas.
  • The estimated value created from these discoveries in Australia was $28.3b – $23.2b from local companies and $5.1b from foreign companies. A further $18.9b was associated with exploration success by Australian companies exploring overseas.
  • In terms of performance, Australian companies exploring in Australia achieved a “Bang-per-Buck” of 1.63 versus only 1.02 for foreign companies … suggesting a very strong “home-town” advantage for local players. Surprisingly, Australian exploration companies also did well exploring overseas, with a “Bang-per-Buck” of 1.56
  • A similar study for Canada, for the same time period found that Canadian companies exploring in Canada achieved a “Bang-per-Buck” of 0.98 versus 0.85 for foreign companies . Canadian did slightly less-well overseas, with a “Bang-per-Buck” of 0.88.
  • Interestingly, for every dollar spent by Canadian companies exploring in Canada, they also spent $1.93 overseas. By comparison, Australian companies were internationally focused, spending only $0.85 overseas per dollar spent in-country

    # Note: The expenditures used in the Case Study were sourced from S&P’s annual forecast surveys and so will differ slightly from the actual expenditures reported by the ABS and NRCan. Also, more importantly, the S&P data excluded expenditures on coal, iron ore and bauxite. As a result, the calculated Bang-per-Buck differs from that reported in the main study.

The above analysis has profound implications for Government Policies and Company strategies.