Global exploration budget to fall 29% by end of the year

Total global budget for nonferrous metals exploration dropped to $15.2 billion in 2013 from $21.5 billion in 2012, a 29% decrease likely to remain the same until the end of the year, according to preliminary results from SNL Metals Economics Group’s latest report.

In its 24th edition of Corporate Exploration Strategies (CES), the Halifax-based firm collected data from about 3,500 mining and exploration companies worldwide, of which more than 2,100 had exploration budgets for 2013.

Juniors’ total exploration budget fell the most, 39% year on year, dropping their share of the overall total to 34% from a high of 55% in 2007.

“Although most metals prices remain at or near ten-year averages, higher operating and capital costs, along with pressure from activist shareholders, have required major companies to focus on a return to healthy margins after years of growth-oriented spending,” says the SNL Metals Economics Group.

Despite financial woes, companies continued exploring in 127 countries, including high- or medium-risk jurisdictions, which accounted for more than half the annual budget total.

Mature markets no that enticing

Spending on mature mining regions such as Canada and the U.S. dropped in 2013. Canada’s total budget was down 41% year on year due to weakness in the country’s junior sector, while the U.S.’ total declined 38% as many gold majors scaled back exploration programs.

Canada and Australia remained the top countries overall, with the U.S., Chile and Mexico rounding out the top five.