Australian gold explorers are setting expenditure records as talk of a new “commodities supercycle” amps up, March quarter exploration spending figures from the ABS reveal.

In seasonally adjusted terms – a measure that accounts for seasonal variances that place a cap on exploration in shorter or weather affected periods like the March quarter – mineral exploration hit its highest level since March 2013 at $843.9 million.

In real terms – that’s the measure that deals in cold, hard cash – explorers spent $735.1 million.

That is the second biggest March quarter spend on record and a monster 17 per cent gain on the figure for March 2020. In fact, only the $876.1 million spent in peak mining boom 2012 ranks higher.

Gold was unsurprisingly the most popular mineral sought, accounting for $359 million or 48.8 per cent of the total spend, a March quarter record and the second best after the $383.5 million punted on by explorers in the 2020 December quarter.

Soaring copper prices spurred investment in the red metal – which is being primed by investment bankers, traders, technologists and analysts alike for its future role in the electrification of everything.

Spending on copper exploration was up 31 per cent on the quarter from $78.7 million to $103.1 million.

It’s no surprise that WA, the engine room of Australia’s mining-led economic juggernaut, was the leader in exploration spend.

Gold exploration pulled a March record $246.9 million splurge, the fourth straight quarter above the $200m mark and around three times higher than spending levels seen just five year ago.


Victoria goes for gold

They may be suffering through lockdowns at the moment, but in the March quarter Victorians were busy on the rigs.

In fact the education state ditched the textbooks and got on the tools, with a record $51.3 million being ploughed into exploration, primarily gold with an also record spend of $43m.

Victoria, home to Australia’s original gold rush and a historic production profile of more than 80 million ounces of gold, has been re-emerging as a promising yellow metal province of late.

Kirkland Lake’s (ASX: KLA) impressive Fosterville mine is the leader of the pack, but it is at the junior end where the ebullient mood has been most apparent.

Navarre Minerals (ASX: NML) announced a maiden resource of 304,300 ounces of gold at its Resolution and Adventure prospects in the Stawell Corridor in the March quarter.

Having recently wrapped up a $10 million raising to fund further exploration, managing director Ian Holland recently told Stockhead the company plans to keep up the pace of drilling with the aim of growing its total resources beyond 1 million ounces.

Stavely Minerals (ASX: SVY), which still had a healthy $20.3 million of cash on hand at the end of the March quarter, has been plugging away on its Thursday’s Gossan copper-gold project.

North Stawell Minerals (ASX: NSM) and A1 gold mine owner Kaiser Reef Gold (ASX: KAU) are two of the recent floats to list with a focus on Victoria’s revived gold sector in the past year.


Increased activity across the drilling sector

The uptick in domestic exploration activity has ratcheted up both investment and M&A activity in the drilling sector in recent months.

After beefing up its drill fleet, Dynamic Drill and Blast (ASX: DDB) hit the expansion mode button with a $21.4 million cash and shares purchase of Pilbara and Goldfields driller Orlando Drilling.

The deal added another 17 aircore, reverse circulation and diamond drill rigs to Dynamic’s portfolio, taking its fleet to 33 rigs.

Privately owned WA driller McKay Drilling was also an acquisition target this month, agreeing an $80 million sale to Toronto-listed driller Major Drilling Group.

At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While Navarre Minerals, Kaiser Reef and North Stawell Minerals are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.