The future success of Australia’s big miners is built on the hard work of smaller miners and explorers, who are taking risks and working hard to discover and develop the mineral resources of tomorrow.
The mineral exploration process starts with the collection and analysis of geographical information from either new (greenfields) or existing (brownfields) tenements, in order to locate Australia’s valuable mineral deposits.
New deposits are then evaluated to determine the feasibility of extraction and production of the resource, and if deemed viable move into a construction phase and finally operational or production phase, with new jobs being created throughout the whole process.
This is how Australian Explorers are discovering and developing the mines of the future and while it has no guarantee of success, it is vital to the future of Australia’s mining industry.
Given the inherently speculative nature of mineral exploration, many small miners and explorers face a lack of stable earnings and associated financial challenges, with investment in exploration often the first casualty of a softening commodities market.
While small miners have always been a part of the exploration phase of developing resource endowments in Australia, the increase in their importance is due in part to the withdrawal of larger companies from exploration activities in recent years. Larger mining companies are less likely to invest in greenfield exploration, with the burden often falling on junior explorers to sustain Australia’s resources wealth.
However, when the risk pays off and a discovery is made, the rewards for the economy are substantial, with Australia’s mining sector responsible for the creation of hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, as well as opportunities for businesses of all types and the payment of billions of dollars in taxes and royalties.
Junior explorers have generated and continue to generate a sizeable proportion of the total mineral resource discoveries in Australia, with Geoscience Australia estimating they have accounted for about 60 per cent of total gold and base metal discoveries between 1960 and 2002.
Recent figures have also shown that 78 per cent of deposits found in Australia between 2007 and 2016 were made by junior explorers.