The turmoil in WA resource circles late last year following a plunge in iron ore prices did not deter miners, with the WA Government receiving a 21 per cent jump in mining applications from September 30 to December 31.
The surprising result, which showed miners looked through the sharp whipsaw in prices, is contained in the latest quarterly performance report of the Department of Mines and Petroleum.
Last year the DMP finalised 82 per cent of its 7048 mining, petroleum and geothermal applications within its targeted deadlines.
Despite lingering grumbles in the industry, the department is now sitting on less than 6000 tenure applications - the bulk of its work - which includes mining lease applications. That number is well down from the all-time peak of 18,700 in February 2007 for the backlog of all applications handled by the department.
Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said he was pleased with the result, given the increase in activity late last year, and that the average mine in WA was now approved within 28 months.
However, in a potentially worrying sign for the industry, miners were prepared to push ahead with existing plans but scaled back the search for new resources.
Prospecting and exploration applications fell to 472 in the fourth quarter, the lowest level since 2009.
The department said this reflected a pullback from the record numbers in 2011, and "uncertain global market conditions and the high costs of operating in WA".