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Canada’s six biggest miners boost exploration spending by 31%: PwC

by Greg Klein | July 5, 2018

Canada’s six biggest miners boost exploration spending by 31%: PwC

(Photos: PricewaterhouseCoopers)

 

The half-dozen Canadian companies among the world’s top 40 miners increased exploration expenditures last year at twice the rate of the others. That info comes from the upbeat results found in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Mine 2018, a study of the planet’s 40 biggest companies by market cap. The six Canadians spent C$620 million looking for new resources last year, compared with C$473 million in 2016. The report forecasts continued improvement throughout the current year.

Globally, exploration rose 15% in 2017 to US$8.4 billion, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence figures cited by PwC.

Not so impressive, though, was the equity raised on three key mining markets, which fell $1.7 billion last year for the industry as a whole. Especially hard-hit was Toronto, which plunged 36%. Australia slipped 9%, while London actually jumped 47%. However this year’s Q1 investing “reveals that activity in Toronto and Australia is starting to pick up and signals a renewed interest in exploration and early development projects.”

Overall, higher commodity prices propelled the top 40 companies’ revenues 23% to about US$600 billion, with cost-saving efficiencies contributing to a “sharp increase in profits.” The report sees several years of continued growth as global annual GDP increases about 4% for the next five years.

Meanwhile market caps for the top 40 soared 30% last year to US$926 billion.

The top 40 companies’ capex outlay, however, floundered at its lowest level in 10 years. But the authors “expect next year’s level to increase as companies press ahead with long-term strategies, be it growth through greenfield or brownfield investments, or new acquisitions.”

Should that investment fail to materialize, the report asks, “will there be a temptation to spend without sufficient capital discipline when demand outstrips supply?”

At a number of points PwC admonishes miners not to “give in to the impulses” engendered by the previous boom: “Perhaps the most significant risk currently facing the world’s top miners is the temptation to acquire mineral-producing assets in order to meet rising demand. In the previous cycle, many miners eschewed capital discipline in the pursuit of higher production levels, which set them up to suffer when the downturn came.”

Canadians among the 2017 top 40 consisted of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (since merged with Agrium to create Nutrien TSX:NTR) in 13th place, Barrick Gold TSX:ABX (14th), Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A and TSX:TECK.B (16th), Goldcorp TSX:G (25th), Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM (26th) and First Quantum Minerals TSX:FM (30th).

The top five companies, holding a top-heavy 47% of the top-40 combined market cap, were BHP Billiton NYSE:BHP, Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO, Glencore, China Shenhua Energy and Vale NYSE:VALE.

In addition to exploration spending, the half-dozen Canadian companies also got special mention for workplace safety, as “world leaders in digital transformation” and for boardroom diversity in which “women make up 25% of directors among Canadian miners, compared to 19% among their global peers.”

Download PwC’s Mine 2018 report.

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