Big jump in WA exploration spending

The creation of Australia's first national oil and gas regulator, National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, at the start of this year, has coincided with a marked increase in exploration expenditure in WA.

According to the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy's September WA Resources and Economics report, due to be published today, companies spent $624 million on oil and gas exploration in the three months to June, up 59 per cent on a seasonally weak March period.

But importantly, the June quarter figure was 13 per cent higher than in the previous corresponding period and the CME attributed the rise to the "completion of NOPSEMA arrangements", which occurred on January 1.

With the exception of exploration spending on uranium, down 24 per cent in the June quarter compared with the preceding three months, companies spent more money in the hunt for gold, iron ore, copper and nickel in the quarter than in the March period.

The broadly higher exploration expenditure was mirrored by largely positive growth in output on WA mine sites in the June quarter.

Corresponding export values were also higher, with $4.1 billion worth of gold (up 33.9 per cent), $15.4 billion of iron ore (up 21.5), $423 million of copper (up 38), $351 million of nickel (up 34) and $2.6 billion of LNG (up 21.2) leaving the State in the three months to June 30. In many cases increases in commodity prices were the cause of the rise in export values. Titanium dioxide exports were down 18 per cent to $124 million, largely because of production cutbacks by market leader Iluka Resources.