Saturday 14th December 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘copper’

Gaia Metals applies new geophysical analysis to Quebec polymetallic project

December 11th, 2019

by Greg Klein | December 11, 2019

This type of geophysical survey hasn’t changed much in two decades, but the technology of evaluation has. With that in mind, Gaia Metals TSXV:GMC (formerly 92 Resources) plans an up-to-date re-analysis of existing IP-resistivity data from its Corvette-FCI property. The process should offer a cost-effective method of gaining new insight into the project.

Gaia Metals applies new geophysical analysis to Quebec polymetallic project

Gaia Metals’ Corvette-FCI project has already shown
impressive sample results for gold, copper and lithium.

The James Bay-region property has so far yielded high-grade samples of gold, copper-gold-silver and lithium-tantalum. Now the company plans to apply new technology to data collected up to 2000.

IP-resistivity surveys have proven “well-suited to detect near-surface disseminated sulphide mineralization (IP anomalies), as well as areas of alteration and/or silicification (resistivity anomalies),” Gaia stated. “This geophysical tool is commonly used in greenstone-hosted gold and base metal exploration and is often effective at qualifying drill targets initially developed from surface mapping and sampling. With the mineralization styles identified at Corvette-FCI, coupled with the thin overburden cover in the area, IP-resistivity offers an efficient sub-surface scan at good resolution and reasonable cost.”

The original survey covered two grids: Golden Gap (now known as FCI West) and Island Lake (FCI East), which includes the Lac Bruno boulder field. IP targets from the original evaluation have yet to be drilled, “further highlighting the value in modern re-processing to prioritize the targets,” Gaia added.

The company expects to conduct new surveying along the property’s Maven trend, extending east across the Lac Smokycat-SO, Lorraine and Elsass showings, where historic sampling brought impressive copper-gold-silver grades. Expected for completion next spring, the survey will precede ground mapping and sampling scheduled for June and July.

Emphasizing the project’s polymetallic promise were surface samples released in September from last summer’s field program. Lithium grades from six newly found pegmatites reached up to 4.72% Li2O, while tantalum numbers included 564 ppm Ta2O5. Gold samples included a Lac Bruno boulder assay as high as 11.9 g/t. A Lorraine outcrop featured 8.15% copper, 1.33 g/t gold and 171 g/t silver.

The project consists of Gaia’s 100%-held Corvette claims and a 75% earn-in from Osisko Mining TSX:OSK spinout O3 Mining TSXV:OIII on the FCI-East and FCI-West blocks.

Among other assets, Gaia’s portfolio includes the Pontax lithium-gold property in Quebec, the Golden silica property in British Columbia and a 40% stake in the Northwest Territories’ Hidden Lake lithium property.

Last week the company closed a private placement of $412,199.

Geoscience BC seeks to put “hidden” copper-gold resources into the public domain

December 6th, 2019

by Greg Klein | December 6, 2019

Additional base and precious metals could be waiting for discovery in a region already hosting some of British Columbia’s largest mines. A new program by Geoscience BC plans a number of measures to search for potential deposits hidden beneath glacial till.

Under scrutiny will be a 50,700-kilometre swath of Quesnel terrane between Centerra Gold’s (TSX:CG) Mount Milligan gold-copper mine to the northwest and, to the southeast, Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO) 75%-held Gibraltar copper-molybdenum operation and Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley project, now on care and maintenance. Backed by $2.9 million in funding, the Central Interior Copper-Gold Research project begins with two programs. One will analyze new and existing till samples with satellite imagery to trace samples and geochemical anomalies to their source. Another program will use existing geophysical data to identify, map and model potential copper-gold deposits.

Geoscience BC seeks to put “hidden” copper-gold resources into public domain

Receding glaciers may have helped hide valuable resources.
(Photo: Geoscience BC)

Results are scheduled for 2021, when drilling is anticipated and additional related projects may take place. Data will be made public for the benefit of communities, governments and academia, as well as the mining sector.

Consequently, support for the program came from communities as well as industry. At a December 5 open house North Central Local Government Association president Lara Beckett said, “The communities of the NCLGA benefit from the valuable public data on water, energy and minerals that these initiatives provide. NCLGA members have passed resolutions in support of the work of Geoscience BC and look forward to working together on future opportunities to strengthen communities throughout north-central British Columbia.”

Association for Mineral Exploration president/CEO Kendra Johnston called the work “important to AME members because the data and information that they provide inspire new mineral exploration and attract new investment to British Columbia. We look forward to seeing the results from the first two projects, and to learning more about future phases.”

Other recently announced Geoscience BC programs include Porphyry Vectoring Techniques in Advanced Argillic Altered Rocks, a study of three known porphyry copper-gold deposits in the province’s northwest and north-central regions.

Earlier last month Geoscience BC published a report on mineral deposit types in the Toodoggone area of B.C.’s north-central region. Among several other projects, the non-profit group is also studying methods of extracting rare earth elements from B.C. coal deposits.

Learn more about the Central Interior Copper-Gold Research project.

International Montoro Resources finds greater massive sulphide potential at Elliot Lake, Ontario

December 3rd, 2019

by Greg Klein | December 3, 2019

After adding results from a ZTEM MVI inversion magnetic survey, estimates of the Pecors anomaly double in size.

 

The Serpent River property shows enhanced prospects for nickel, copper, gold, platinum and palladium, according to a recent compilation and analysis of geophysical data. International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT reported two likely massive sulphide targets over the project’s Pecors anomaly. Now measured to about 5.7 kilometres by 4.2 kilometres by 2.2 kilometres, the anomaly extends to twice the size of a previous estimate.

International Montoro Resources finds greater massive sulphide potential at Elliot Lake, Ontario

A 2015 drill program tested the property’s magnetic anomaly.

The findings come from Mira Geoscience, considered a pioneer of advanced geological and geophysical modelling. The firm analyzed data using its Geoscience Analyst 3D visualization and exploration platform.

Following a 2007 VTEM survey, Montoro sunk two holes totalling 2,322 metres in 2015. One hole intersected a magnetic anomaly’s source, a gabbro body with minor sulphides showing nickel, copper and PGE values near the base. The other hole also intersected the gabbro, finding low-grade gold, platinum, palladium, copper and nickel values, the company stated.

“In essence we are exploring for a massive sulphide nickel-copper-PGE-gold deposit,” said president/CEO Gary Musil.

Last October the company announced a 51% earn-in on the 2,250-hectare Camping Lake property in Ontario’s Red Lake district. In British Columbia’s Cariboo region, Montoro completed rock and soil sampling last July on its 2,138-hectare property bordering Defense Metals’ TSXV:DEFN Wicheeda rare earths project.

Montoro’s portfolio also includes two northern Saskatchewan uranium properties held 50/50 with Belmont Resources TSXV:BEA.

Updated: Belmont Resources’ Greenwood expansion continues with new acquisitions

November 21st, 2019

Update: On November 21, 2019, the company announced two more Greenwood-area acquisitions totalling 45 hectares in the Pride of the West and Great Bear claims.

by Greg Klein | October 30, 2019

Newly acquired turf shows continued interest in an historic southern British Columbia mining camp. On October 30 Belmont Resources TSXV:BEA announced 127 hectares of new claims to add to its existing holdings in the area.

The Glenora acquisition sits adjacent to Golden Dawn Minerals’ (TSXV:GOM) Golden Crown project, about three kilometres from Golden Dawn’s processing plant and one kilometre from the former Phoenix mine.

Belmont Resources expands its presence in B.C.’s Greenwood camp

Although neighbouring deposits don’t necessarily reflect on the potential of other properties, an idea of Greenwood activity can be gleaned from historic production at Phoenix. The open pit reportedly produced over one million ounces of gold and 500 million pounds of copper up to 1978. Golden Crown reached PEA in 2017 with a resource that uses a 3.5 g/t gold-equivalent cutoff:

Indicated: 163,000 tonnes averaging 11.09 g/t gold and 0.56% copper for 11.93 g/t gold-equivalent containing 62,500 gold-equivalent ounces

Inferred: 42,000 tonnes averaging 9.04 g/t gold and 0.43% copper for 9.68 g/t gold-equivalent containing 13,100 gold-equivalent ounces

Belmont plans further assessment of Glenora while considering other possible acquisitions in the camp.

The new claims will cost the company 420,000 units on TSXV approval, with each unit containing one share and one warrant. Another 420,000 shares are payable within a year and a 1.5% NSR will apply.

Earlier this month Belmont reported sample results from its Greenwood-area Pathfinder project, with grades up to 4.999 ppm gold, 35.86 ppm silver, 20700 ppm copper and 45.1 ppm cobalt. The autumn campaign followed a summer program that returned sample assays up to 29.2 g/t gold, along with silver, copper and lead. The company currently has contract proposals under review for an airborne VTEM survey over the property.

Belmont’s portfolio also includes a 75% interest in Nevada’s Kibby Basin lithium project, where drill results have graded up to 393 ppm lithium over 42.4 metres and 415 ppm over 30.5 metres. In northern Saskatchewan the company shares a 50/50 stake with International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT in two uranium properties.

Belmont currently has private placements on offer totalling up to $300,000. The company closed a $252,000 private placement last June and arranged two loans totalling $50,000 in August.

EV rare earths demand to increase 350% to 2025, outpacing supply: Adamas Intelligence

November 11th, 2019

by Greg Klein | November 11, 2019

Increasing reliance on electric vehicles will challenge the ability of suppliers to meet rare earths demand, resulting in “shortages if the market continues on a path of business as usual,” according to an independent research and advisory firm.

A new report from Adamas Intelligence forecasts a 350% increase in rare earths demand from EVs alone between 2018 and 2025. Estimates call for another 127% increase from 2025 to 2030. The REs in question consist of neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium, key ingredients for the permanent magnets most commonly used in the vehicles.

The report foresees annual EV sales, excluding mild and micro hybrids, to multiply from 4.3 million units last year to 12.5 million in 2025 and 32 million in 2030. Over 80% of those vehicles will use permanent magnet synchronous motors, which rely on RE-bearing magnets. Given their advantages of cost and efficiency over other types of motors, Adamas expects “overwhelming” use in next-generation EV designs.

Adamas forecasts EV demand for neodymium-praseodymium oxide will rise from about 3,000 tonnes last year to 13,000 tonnes in 2025 and 28,000 tonnes in 2030, making up around 20% of total global demand in 2030. With production anticipated to increase at a slower rate, the report predicts a shortfall of 7,500 tonnes by 2030, along with a 300-tonne deficit for dysprosium oxide, “if supply is not increased beyond what is currently anticipated.”

While hybrids and fully battery-dependent vehicle sales combined rose 23% between 2010 and 2018, the study found battery-only EVs such as the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf increased at a compound average growth rate of 118% during that time. Battery-only vehicles showed 133% CAGR. Fully electric models will constitute about 63% of the 32 million EVs forecast for 2030, the report estimates.

Despite a general trend to cut subsidies, national, regional and municipal governments worldwide have set goals for EV use to offset climate change. But “ambitious targets alone will not drive EV penetration into the mass market,” the report maintains. “Falling costs and improved EV economics will.”

Besides rare earths, Adamas sees accelerated EV demand for lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite and copper, as well as other metals and materials.

Read the Adamas Intelligence report: Electric Growth: EVs, Motors and Motor Materials.

Northern challenge

November 8th, 2019

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

by Greg Klein

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

 

What happens when a mining-based economy runs out of mines? The Northwest Territories risks finding out the hard way but the reason won’t be a lack of mineral resources. For too long, investors have been discouraged from backing territorial exploration. That’s the message the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines delivered to the legislative assembly in Yellowknife last month. Now the industry group awaits a response, one backed with action, as the newly elected government prepares for its four-year term.

The territory’s three mines, all diamond operations, have passed peak production, facing closures over the coming decade. The NWT hosts only a few advanced projects, none comparing in potential economic clout with the big three. The problem contrasts with the NWT’s two northern neighbours, where the industry continues to thrive.

Projections released in July by the Conference Board of Canada call for Nunavut to lead the country in annual economic expansion, with an average 4.6% up to 2025. “Mining will be the main driver of growth, as Agnico Eagle prepares to bring its Meliadine mine and Amaruq satellite deposit into operation, and Sabina works on its Back River project.”

More tepid growth in mining will have repercussions on other areas of the economy, with growth in services-based industries remaining flat for much of the forecast. In all, economic growth in the Northwest Territories is forecast to contract by an average annual pace of 1.6% between now and 2025.—Conference Board of Canada

Yukon “will also experience a boom, with growth of 4.6% this year and 6.2% in 2019,” again thanks to mining. But the NWT faces decline:

“Two new metal mines should help offset some of the losses for the mining sector, but not until after 2020,” the Board stated. “More tepid growth in mining will have repercussions on other areas of the economy, with growth in services-based industries remaining flat for much of the forecast. In all, economic growth in the Northwest Territories is forecast to contract by an average annual pace of 1.6% between now and 2025.”

A lack of exploration spending explains the lack of projects in the pipeline, according to the Chamber of Mines. “The NWT has basically been flat-lining for the last 12 years,” says executive director Tom Hoefer. “That’s a problem because that’s the very investment you need to come up with new mines.”

But it’s a problem industry can’t solve without government help, he emphasizes.

“The government goes to Roundup and other conferences with really good marketing tools and they’re putting out all the right messages, such as: ‘Come unlock our potential.’ But if it’s that easy, why hasn’t the industry picked up?” Hoefer asks.

“Well, it’s because these other things happen.”

His group outlined a number of causes in its presentation to the assembly: high cost of living, relative lack of infrastructure, regulatory uncertainty, unsettled land claims and additional expanses of land (over 30% of the territory) deemed off limits for exploration and development.

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

Benefiting from previously built infrastructure,
NorZinc hopes to begin zinc-lead-silver mining
at Prairie Creek by 2022. (Photo: NorZinc)

Hoefer also mentions “contortions” imposed on companies. As examples he cites some early-stage exploration projects that were sent to environmental assessment, “something that would never happen in southern Canada,” and two companies being required to collect data about lakes from which they might or might not draw water in small amounts for diamond drilling, “a totally new requirement, totally out of step with what happens in the rest of the country.

“What that says to investors is, ‘You’d better be careful when you come up to the NWT because there are these surprises coming out of the woodwork.’”

Convincing the territorial government calls for a different approach than in most of Canada. With no political parties, the Chamber deals with 19 individual MLAs tasked with working on consensus. They put together collective priorities, Hoefer explains, then create a mandate for their four-year term. His group looks forward to seeing the current mandate, expected to be released soon.

“Candidates don’t run on a platform but on a community-by-community basis, saying ‘this is what I would do for our community.’ So the challenge is pulling them all together to serve the entire NWT and try to keep them on that path over the next four years.”

Should problems remain unresolved, however, the territory risks an unfortunate repeat of late 1990s history.

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

Considerable infrastructure remains at the former
Pine Point operation, where Osisko Metals upgrades
Canada’s “largest pit-constrained zinc deposit.”
(Photo: Osisko Metals)

“We were in a similar situation before the first diamond mine opened because the gold mines were winding down. At the same time Nunavut was created, and the new territory pulled a lot of funding away to create a parallel government. The Yellowknife economy really took a dive and housing prices went way down. At the time the government was actually offering $10,000 grants to encourage people to buy homes. We went through a lot of pain then, but I think a lot of people have forgotten that.”

Even Ekati seemed insufficient to buoy the economy. “But when Diavik got its approval the change was palpable. There was this big sigh of relief, money started to flow and the economy turned around.”

Now the challenge is to overturn 12 years of neglect that have made investors “gun shy about the NWT,” he says. “We have to rebuild that trust by showing that things are different now. It’s going to take all of us working together to help make it better.”

With no other industries ready to take mining’s place, “we have to encourage companies to come up here and bring their expertise to do what government can’t do, and that’s turn rock into opportunity.”

 

Current and potential mines: Comparing job numbers and durations

 

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

While updating indicated and inferred resources,
Vital Metals sees near-term potential for a short-lived
operation at its Nechalacho rare earths deposits.
(Photo: Avalon Advanced Materials)

Employment numbers reported by the Chamber for the NWT’s existing diamond mines in 2018 show 1,625 workers at Dominion Diamond Mines’ majority-held Ekati, 1,113 at Rio Tinto’s (NYSE:RIO)/Dominion’s Diavik and 527 at De Beers’/Mountain Province Diamonds’ (TSX:MPVD) Gahcho Kué.

Projections for the territory’s four likeliest potential mines show estimated average annual employment of 363 workers at Prairie Creek (for 15 years), 300 at Pine Point (13 years), 225 at NICO (21 years) and 30 at Nechalacho (four years).

The NWT’s next mine will be Prairie Creek, according to NorZinc TSX:NZC. Built to near-completion by 1982 but never operated, the zinc-lead-silver project reached feasibility in 2017. The company hopes to receive its final permit, for an all-season road, this month. Should financing fall in place, NorZinc plans to begin production in 2022.

Having operated from 1964 to 1987, the Pine Point zinc-lead camp retains infrastructure including an electrical substation and an all-season 96-kilometre link to Hay River, the head of Canada’s only industrial railway north of 60. A previous operator reached PEA in 2017 but current owner Osisko Metals TSX:OM has been drilling the property to upgrade a 2018 inferred resource of 38.4 million tonnes averaging 4.58% zinc and 1.85% lead, for 6.58% zinc-equivalent, Canada’s “largest pit-constrained zinc deposit.”

Fortune Minerals’ (TSX:FT) NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project reached feasibility in 2014 based on a mill production rate of 4,650 tpd for a combined open pit and underground operation. A further study considered but rejected a rate of 6,000 tpd. Fortune now has several other proposals under consideration to improve the project’s economics and “align the development schedule with the expected deficit in cobalt supply in 2022-23.”

The project sits about 50 kilometres north of Whati, which will have an all-season connection to Yellowknife via the Tlicho road now under construction.

Avalon Advanced Materials TSX:AVL brought its Nechalacho rare earths project to feasibility in 2013 but this year divided the property with another company, privately owned Cheetah Resources which was taken over by ASX-listed Vital Metals in October. Under a $5-million property acquisition that closed soon after the takeover, Vital gets two near-surface deposits while Avalon retains the ground below that. Now working on an update to the indicated and inferred resources, Vital says its deposits show near-term “potential for a start-up operation.”

See the Chamber’s PowerPoint presentation to the NWT government.

Related:

Emerita Resources announces positive legal outcome in disputed Spanish tender

November 6th, 2019

by Greg Klein | November 6, 2019

A lengthy legal battle has reached a favourable decision from Spain’s Supreme Court, Emerita Resources TSXV:EMO reported November 5. The company says judges affirmed its appeal and rejected a counter-appeal regarding the tender process for the Paymogo zinc project in the country’s southwest.

Emerita Resources announces positive legal outcome in disputed Spanish tender

The dispute dates back to a 2014 public tender decision that awarded the property to another company. Emerita challenged the process behind that decision, alleging procedural errors and a lack of impartiality. In 2017 the Upper Court of Andalusia ordered that the two companies’ bids be reconsidered under altered criteria. The following month, Andalusia’s regional government appealed that order to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has now upheld the regional court’s decision. Emerita maintains the court-ordered tender process would award the company 34.46 points over 29.37 points for the rival bidder.

Emerita is “prepared to begin work on the Paymogo project as soon as the tender can be finalized, in line with the instructions from the courts,” said CEO David Gower. “We are highly encouraged by public statements from senior officials of the new government in Andalusia that they will abide by the rulings of the court and that they look forward to seeing the economic activity and potential job creation such a project can generate. The Paymogo project is highly prospective in our view and we are excited to work on its development.”

With paved road access to the port of Huelva about 50 kilometres away, the property sits within the Iberian pyrite belt, one of the world’s most highly mineralized VMS terrains, Emerita states. Extensive drilling at Paymogo has probed two areas about eight kilometres apart, La Infanta and Romanera. The latter hosts an historic, non-43-101 estimate dating to the 1990s that showed 34 million tonnes averaging 0.42% copper, 2.2% lead, 2.3% zinc, 44.4 g/t silver and 0.8 g/t gold. The deposit reportedly extends from surface to about 350 metres in depth.

Within that deposit is a higher-grade resource, again historic and non-43-101, showing 11.21 million tonnes grading 0.4% copper, 2.47% lead, 5.5% zinc, 64 g/t silver and 1 g/t gold.

The Infanta zone has been drilled from surface outcrops to about 100 metres in depth, with historic, non-43-101 reports from the 1980s of several high-grade copper-lead-zinc-silver intervals.

In another disputed tender, last month the company announced the Appellate Court of Seville ordered an investigation into the process for the Aznalcollar zinc-lead property, which Emerita argues was wrongfully awarded to another bidder.

Reporting on summer drilling at its Plaza Norte project last August, Emerita released an initial result of 4.57% zinc over 9.5 metres. The company holds a 50% stake in the JV near the northern Spanish coast.

Belmont Resources expands its presence in B.C.’s Greenwood camp

October 30th, 2019

This story has been updated and moved here.

International Montoro Resources moves into Ontario’s Red Lake camp

October 23rd, 2019

by Greg Klein | October 23, 2019

A new acquisition brings another player into a busy northwestern Ontario mining and exploration region. Under an agreement announced October 23, International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT can earn a 51% interest in the 2,250-hectare Camping Lake property on the Birch-Uchi-Confederation Lakes greenstone belt, home to the Red Lake gold deposits and Great Bear Resources’ (TSXV:GBR) attention-grabbing Dixie Lake property 20 kilometres north.

International Montoro Resources moves into Ontario’s Red Lake camp

Previous work at Camping Lake includes petrographic studies, rock, soil and lake sediment samples, IP and ground geophysics, as well as drilling. Conducted between 2010 and 2013, the work was carried out by Laurentian Goldfields, Kinross Gold TSX:K and AngloGold Ashanti NYSE:AU. Montoro plans an immediate compilation of exploration data prior to its own program.

Under the JV agreement with Falcon Gold TSXV:FG, Montoro would issue 1.5 million shares over one year and assume Falcon’s payments of $65,000 over four years. Montoro’s exploration commitments would call for $100,000 within one year and another $200,000 over the second year. On earning the initial 51%, Montoro could up its stake to 75% by paying $500,000. A 2% NSR applies.

In Ontario’s Elliot Lake district, Montoro has found nickel-copper-PGE potential in addition to historic uranium and rare earths mineralization on the company’s Serpent River project. Last month Montoro engaged Mira Geoscience to undertake an extensive study of the company’s drilling and geophysics data, along with previous work on or around the property by other companies and regional programs by the Ontario Geological Survey.

In central British Columbia’s Cariboo region, Montoro holds a 2,138-hectare property bordering Defense Metals’ TSXV:DEFN Wicheeda rare earths project.

In southern Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, Montoro holds the Duhamel titanium-vanadium-chromium prospect. The company’s portfolio also includes two northern Saskatchewan uranium properties held 50/50 with Belmont Resources TSXV:BEA.

Earlier this month Montoro closed a private placement first tranche of $47,500.

Read more about International Montoro Resources.

Read more about Ontario’s Red Lake camp.

Global decline affects exploration in Canada and abroad

October 18th, 2019

by Greg Klein | October 18, 2019

Some optimistic indications are already apparent but 2019 marked a generally disappointing year for exploration spending world-wide. The upturn that began in 2016 slumped in late 2018 and continued to languish through most of this year. That’s the verdict of S&P Global Market Intelligence, which announced the exploration world’s first cumulative budget decrease since 2016 and Canada’s first slip behind Australia since 2001. Commodity prices and U.S.-China trade tensions played a role, but so did corporate mergers, S&P found.

Canadian companies follow global decline in exploration

“Difficult market conditions and high-profile M&A activity have unsurprisingly impacted budgets the most, as the amount of money being raised by companies dropped sharply from November 2018 through February of this year,” said S&P’s Mark Ferguson, who co-wrote the study with Kevin Murphy. “We are encouraged, however, by some positive signs, such as the rising number of active companies, and copper recording a year-over-year increase.”

The data comes from a survey of 3,300 public and private companies to determine their spending on non-ferrous exploration within continents and regions or, in the case of top three countries Canada, Australia and the United States, within national borders.

Preliminary data shows an estimated $300-million drop in global nonferrous exploration spending this year, to $9.8 billion (all figures in U.S. dollars). But the decline was hardly uniform. Of those countries that bucked the trend, Australia attracted the highest spending increase within its borders, gaining $199 million while Canada dropped by $134 million.

Despite Latin America’s $117-million decline, the region retained global first place with $2.62 billion in spending. Australia’s $1.53 billion took second place, followed by the Rest of the World category’s $1.44 billion, Canada’s $1.31 billion, Africa’s $1.12 billion, the United States’ $944.8 million and Pacific/Southeast Asia’s $327 million.

Exploration at existing mine sites outpaced grassroots and advanced-stage projects, continuing a trend since the 1990s. This year’s mine site exploration grew by $225.6 million to reach $3.6 billion, compared with reductions of $529.4 million for advanced stage projects and $35.7 million for grassroots work. “This marks the first year that mine site allocations have accounted for the largest share of global exploration at 38.5%, with late stage dropping to 35% and grassroots almost flat at 27%,” S&P stated.

As is normally the case in high-level mergers, the exploration budgets of the combined entities are much lower than the totals budgeted by the individual pre-merger companies, with Newmont Goldcorp Corp [TSX:NGT] and Barrick Gold Corp [TSX:ABX] allocating about $48 million and $54 million less, respectively, than the two pairs of companies did in 2018.—S&P Global Market Intelligence

Among culprits for the overall decline was M&A, “most notably the Newmont-Goldcorp and Barrick Gold-Randgold tie-ups.”

Additional factors included market apprehension about China and the U.S. along with generally disappointing commodity performance. Exceptions were “mostly smaller players.” Despite rising prices in nickel and palladium, the two metals combined attracted less spending than zinc. But thanks largely to copper, base metals exploration overall rose by $191.1 million to $3.23 billion.

Diamonds increased for the second time since 2012, by $75.8 million to $304.6 million.

If gold offered encouragement, it came too late for 2019 budgets. The yellow stuff suffered the worst exploration decrease of any of the survey’s commodities, dropping by $559.4 million to $4.29 billion. Although still a contender for 2020 improvement, “any rise in gold budgets will likely be offset by lower allocations for other commodities.” As a result, S&P predicts next year’s exploration budgets “to remain fairly flat.”

Global spending by Canadian explorers will total about $2.16 billion this year, according to a forecast released by Natural Resources Canada in August (these figures in Canadian dollars). That number compares with $2.3 billion last year. Juniors are expected to pony up about $961 million and seniors another $1.2 billion, marking declines of 4% and 9% respectively from 2018.