Mineral exploration in freefall

Mineral exploration across WA is in freefall as tumbling prices and signs of oversupply on global markets force companies to trim their spending.

New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that since mineral exploration peaked at $603 million in the June quarter, it has fallen by two-thirds.

In the March quarter, total spending on mineral exploration in WA reached $206.2 million.

That means total spending on mineral exploration across WA is now at its lowest level since the March quarter of 2007.

Spending on uranium exploration has fallen by 72 per cent since mid-2012 while nickel and cobalt exploration tumbled 80 per cent.

Iron ore remained the most important mineral in WA with companies spending $102 million looking for it across the State in the March quarter.

But this is down by 66 per cent since iron ore exploration peaked at almost $300 million.

Iron ore is emblematic of the problems facing the sector, with the spot price falling to a 20-month low of $US91.80 a tonne at the weekend and 22 per cent over the past quarter.

ANZ commodities analyst Mark Pervan high-cost domestic iron ore producers in China were feeling the pinch. "If prices remain depressed under $US100/t, these mines will be forced to curb supply," he said.

It is in stark contrast to the petroleum and gas sector, where exploration was up by 29 per cent over the same period, with companies spending $751 million.

The West Australian

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