Drilling down 29 per cent in June quarter

The decline in drilling activity since the end of 2011 continued in the quarter to end-June.

According to the latest State of the Market: Exploration Report from IntierraRMG, there were drilling reports from 279 prospects in the month of June (this total includes reports from more than one drilling prospect per project). This contrasts with the recent peak, in October 2011, of 1,000 prospects reporting drilling activity. Only 121 of the drilling reports in June 2013 were from gold prospects, compared with 299 in June last year and drilling reports from 405 gold prospects in June 2011. Drilling on copper prospects has also seen a sharp cut back over the past year; there were regularly 100 copper prospects reporting drilling results per month in 2011 and 2012, but only 45 copper prospects reported drilling results in June.

As IntierraRMG Editorial Director, Dr Chris Hinde explains; "Cumulative drilling reports for the quarter just ended amounted to only 1,053 prospects, compared with 1,479 in the March quarter, 1,741 in the quarter to end-December 2012 and 2,072 prospects in the three months to end-September 2012. Note, moreover, that these cumulative numbers might include multiple reports of drilling from the same prospect."

Drilling for gold was reported on 495 individual prospects in the June quarter, compared with 651 prospects in the three months to end-March, and 905 prospects in the year-ago quarter. The decline in drilling for copper has been similarly steep, with only 144 separate prospects reporting copper exploration drilling in the quarter just ended, compared with 192 and 235, respectively, in the previous quarter and the year-ago period.

Dr Hinde continues; "The reduced level of exploration drilling has been felt across the world but South America has seen a particularly sharp reduction in the search for metals and minerals. Drilling for gold in South America has more than halved over the past year, with activity on individual prospects falling from 123 a year ago to just 55 prospects in the quarter just ended. This means South America’s share of the global search for gold has fallen from almost 14% to barely 11% over a twelve-month period."

Likewise, the search for silver in South America has collapsed from 46 prospects in the second quarter of 2012 to only 16 prospects in the three-months just ended. The continent’s share of total silver exploration has fallen from 23% to under 16%.

It is a similar picture for the base metals. Drilling for copper in South America was reported from 40 prospects in the June quarter a year ago (17% of the world total), compared with only 23 prospects in the quarter just ended (16% of the total). Zinc exploration has collapsed from 11 prospects a year ago to just one (a fall from a share of almost 17% to 2%). There was no drilling reported for lead in the three months to end-June, compared with activity on 10 prospects (20% of the total) in the June quarter last year.

Drilling activity in North and Central America has fallen in line with the global trend; however the region continues to account for the lion’s share of the gold drilling (over 41% of the total). N&C America has fallen behind Australasia, however, in the hunt for copper, with fewer than 28% of the separate copper prospects, compared with Australasia’s 35% share in the June quarter. Although exploration for copper held up well in Australasia (51 individual prospects, compared with 69 in the June quarter last year), drilling for gold in the region slumped to 104 prospects in the three months just ended, compared with 180 in the year-ago quarter. Gold drilling in Asia fell to 41 individual prospects in the June quarter (77 a year ago), with 16 prospects reporting drilling for copper (27 prospects in the June quarter of 2012).