Gold explorers — particularly small caps — were the mining industry’s heavy-lifters last year and the results can be seen in big share price jumps driven by all that “news flow”.

See below how 200 ASX gold stocks have fared over the past year.

After four years of declining investment, the global mining industry marked a 14 per cent increase in non-ferrous (non-iron) exploration to nearly $US8 billion ($10.3 billion) last year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Gold explorers accounted for 73 per cent of the increase.

They spent $US4.1 billion globally — a jump of 22 per cent over 2016 – to account for more than half the global exploration budget.

Across all sectors, it was the mainly the small guys injecting cash into exploration, while the majors continued to allocate only a small part of their revenue on finding more minerals, S&P found.

That paid off handsomely for many ASX-listed small cap gold explorers.

Among the top 30 best performing ASX gold stocks tracked by Stockhead (see table below), only one — Kidman Resources — has a market cap of more than $300 million.

King River Copper – profiled this week by Stockhead columnist Tim Treadgold — is the king of ASX gold small caps with a 612 per cent share price hike over the past year. It has a market cap of $68 million.

Draig Resources has soared 580 per cent, Riedel has gained 426 per cent and Moreton Resources is up 267 per cent.

The trio has a combined value of less than $150 million.

Other small gold explorers Anglo Australian Resources, Apollo Consolidated, BBX Minerals and Force Commodities have also delighted shareholders with a tripling – or better – of their shares.

More dollars = more drilling

Across all mining sectors, improved equity market support for explorers “allowed many companies to launch or resume drill programs on their most promising projects,” said Mark Ferguson, associate research director at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“In the last quarter of 2017, there was a sharp increase in reported drill results, and financings closed the year on a high note. As a result, our year-end measure of exploration sector activity reached levels not seen since early 2013.”

From 2012 to 2016, the major producers slashed exploration spending at a faster pace than their revenues declined, S&P Global noted.

This drove their ratio of exploration spend to revenue down to a 12-year low of 1.8 per cent in 2016, from 3.2 per cent in 2012.

Although the group’s exploration budgets for 2017 increased, rising revenues for the year will likely result in little change to the 2017 ratio, S&P Global said.

Majors leave the exploring to juniors

“The majors are now returning to the model of investing in juniors as their exploration arms and then acquiring or investing in those juniors,” Jason Stirbinskis, managing director of Columbia-focused gold explorer Andes Resources told Stockhead recently.

“You are seeing a lot of the majors coming in and grabbing large stakes in the juniors in the country.”

Andes is raising $2 million in seed capital and will soon begin drilling on an 80,000 hectare gold and copper-prospective landholding in Colombia. The company is aiming for an ASX listing later this year.

In late 2016, heavyweights BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) and Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) fought for a stake in SolGold’s (AIM:SOLG) Cascabel copper-gold project in Ecuador. Newcrest was the victor, now owning a 14.5 per cent stake in the project.

Brisbane-based SolGold is listed on London’s AIM exchange and has a market cap of £374 million ($665.6 million).

Newcrest, however, has not been one of the better performing stocks over the past year, losing 0.5 a per cent to trade at $21.72 on Tuesday.

Here’s a table showing how 200+ ASX gold stocks have fared over the past year. Search or scroll to reveal more.

ASX Code Name 1-year change (Mar 1 - Mar 6) Price Mar 6, 2018 Price Mar 1, 2017 Market Cap 52wk High 52wk Low
SMC STRATEGIC MINERALS Suspended 0.2984 0.41 0.28
SBU SIBURAN RESOURCES -0.4545454545 0.006 0.011 4186992.5 0.011 0.002
NUS NUSANTARA RESOURCES (listed Aug 2, 2017) -0.3333333333 0.28 0.42 27308894 0.45 0.25
NMM NOBLE METALS Suspended 0.12 0.155 0.03
NMI NORTHERN MINING Suspended 0.017 0.024 0.009
NMG NMG CORP Suspended 0.008 0.011 0.006
MZZ MATADOR MINING (listed Mar 6, 2017) 0.3 0.26 0.2 6201000.5 0.46 0.19
MAG MAGMATIC RESOURCES (listed May 19, 2017) -0.45 0.11 0.2 8827500 0.2 0.1
EGS EASTERN GOLDFIELDS Suspended 0.35 0.535 0.18
E2M E2 METALS (listed Apr 19, 2017) -0.45 0.11 0.2 6677873 0.17 0.1
CVR CENTRAL ASIA RESOURCES Suspended 0.021 0.001
CDG CLEVELAND MINING Suspended 0.079 0.03
KRC KING RIVER COPPER 6.125 0.057 0.008 67887776 0.075 0.004
DRG DRAIG RESOURCES 5.833333333 0.205 0.03 74350608 0.3 0.028
RIE RIEDEL RESOURCES 4.263157895 0.07 0.0133 29264878 0.105 0.0095
KDR KIDMAN RESOURCES 3.072164948 1.975 0.485 693280064 2.23 0.335
MRV MORETON RESOURCES 2.666666667 0.011 0.003 30381576 0.019 0.0035
AAR ANGLO AUSTRALIAN RESOURCES 2.545454545 0.078 0.022 22556976 0.11 0.02
AOP APOLLO CONSOLIDATED 2.1875 0.255 0.08 39061340 0.325 0.053
BBX BBX MINERALS 2.153846154 0.205 0.065 79092456 0.4 0.06
4CE FORCE COMMODITIES 2.064516129 0.095 0.031 39892008 0.17 0.016
NTL NEW TALISMAN GOLD MINES 1.6 0.013 0.005 28138542 0.029 0.004
LSR LODESTAR MINERALS 1.6 0.026 0.01 16530497 0.037 0.007
MAU MAGNETIC RESOURCES 1.571428571 0.18 0.07 26697906 0.34 0.06
HAW HAWTHORN RESOURCES 1.5 0.07 0.028 22488592 0.115 0.026
OGX ORINOCO GOLD 1.490039841 0.125 0.0502 115385640 0.13 0.019
CYL CATALYST METALS 1.448979592 1.2 0.49 84951184 1.4 0.43
IRC INTERMIN RESOURCES 1.35 0.235 0.1 53571108 0.25 0.085
MAR MALACHITE RESOURCES 1.333333333 0.007 0.003 9485614 0.008 0.003
OKU OKLO RESOURCES 1.2 0.44 0.2 130225664 0.5 0.19
RTR RUMBLE RESOURCES 1 0.052 0.026 18374802 0.094 0.021
BSX BLACKSTONE MINERALS 1 0.4 0.2 38726000 0.655 0.165
CTM CENTAURUS METALS 0.9230769231 0.0125 0.0065 24884120 0.018 0.003
NAG NAGAMBIE RESOURCES 0.9166666667 0.115 0.06 46452628 0.12 0.023
WAF WEST AFRICAN RESOURCES 0.9069767442 0.41 0.215 235385888 0.475 0.18
DEG DE GREY MINING 0.8939393939 0.125 0.066 39119456 0.38 0.034
PSC PROSPECT RESOURCES 0.875 0.045 0.024 83464624 0.077 0.02
GMD GENESIS MINERALS 0.8571428571 0.039 0.021 30181780 0.051 0.014
EXG EXCELSIOR GOLD 0.8076923077 0.047 0.026 40104648 0.062 0.021
AIV ACTIVEX 0.7777777778 0.16 0.09 28356544 0.21 0.083
NML NAVARRE MINERALS 0.7307692308 0.09 0.052 25097862 0.15 0.028
GBR GREAT BOULDER RESOURCES 0.6774193548 0.26 0.155 18356222 0.71 0.096
MZM MONTEZUMA MINING 0.6666666667 0.3 0.18 27543236 0.35 0.125
DGO DGO GOLD 0.6508114158 0.59 0.3574 6336824.5 2.45 0.21
ARV ARTEMIS RESOURCES 0.64 0.205 0.125 119050848 0.595 0.055
SBM ST BARBARA 0.5984251969 4.06 2.54 2108097152 4.23 2.21
EAR ECHO RESOURCES 0.5789473684 0.3 0.19 146593920 0.41 0.1
NST NORTHERN STAR RESOURCES 0.5750605327 6.505 4.13 3860300544 6.5 3.74
DCN DACIAN GOLD 0.5743589744 3.07 1.95 627826688 3.18 1.5
SAR SARACEN MINERAL HOLDINGS 0.5714285714 1.705 1.085 1365586048 1.7925 0.87
PMY PACIFICO MINERALS 0.5714285714 0.011 0.007 9647701 0.014 0.004
EXU EXPLAURUM 0.5714285714 0.11 0.07 51998356 0.17 0.06
AUC AUSGOLD 0.5555555556 0.049 0.0315 28280328 0.061 0.0201
GOR GOLD ROAD RESOURCES 0.5339805825 0.79 0.515 701672320 0.845 0.51
DKM DUKETON MINING 0.5 0.24 0.16 24792998 0.275 0.1
PNR PANTORO 0.4651162791 0.315 0.215 251221376 0.33 0.17
PRU PERSEUS MINING 0.4166666667 0.425 0.3 429125216 0.475 0.27
CDV CARDINAL RESOURCES 0.4024390244 0.575 0.41 215488016 0.745 0.375
IGO INDEPENDENCE GROUP 0.4016853933 4.99 3.56 2893039616 5.23 2.84
MCR MINCOR RESOURCES 0.387755102 0.34 0.245 74846976 0.45 0.13
MML MEDUSA MINING 0.3823529412 0.47 0.34 96624352 0.5175 0.27
AGS ALLIANCE RESOURCES 0.3793103448 0.12 0.087 13036740 0.18 0.074
AMI AURELIA METALS 0.3773584906 0.365 0.265 312395968 0.405 0.155
EVN EVOLUTION MINING 0.3425925926 2.9 2.16 4857796608 2.94 1.89
RRL REGIS RESOURCES 0.3358208955 4.475 3.35 2249310208 4.5 2.98
RND RAND MINING 0.32 2.64 2 169618704 3.2 1.95
SPI SPITFIRE MATERIALS 0.3125 0.105 0.08 52106880 0.18 0.07
KCN KINGSGATE CONSOLIDATED 0.2678571429 0.355 0.28 81608504 0.54 0.185
KAI KAIROS MINERALS 0.2580645161 0.039 0.031 31797392 0.135 0.011
KIN KIN MINING 0.248164464 0.255 0.2043 56443536 0.4485 0.1794
OVR OVERLAND RESOURCES 0.2037037037 0.013 0.0108 6900510 0.016 0.005
WFE WINMAR RESOURCES 0.2 0.006 0.005 11986166 0.008 0.001
SFR SANDFIRE RESOURCES 0.1957878315 7.665 6.41 1180107136 7.89 5.25
ARX ARC EXPLORATION 0.1794276875 0.61 0.5172 3843223.25 0.66 0.4976
KGD KULA GOLD 0.1711711712 0.026 0.0222 9015793 0.033 0.019
KOR KORAB RESOURCES 0.1666666667 0.028 0.024 8311967.5 0.04 0.016
RED RED 5 0.1639344262 0.071 0.061 86848512 0.077 0.029
MDI MIDDLE ISLAND RESOURCES 0.1578947368 0.022 0.019 15353832 0.033 0.013
MGV MUSGRAVE MINERALS 0.1571428571 0.081 0.07 22598956 0.105 0.059
HIG HIGHLANDS PACIFIC 0.1571428571 0.081 0.07 71265248 0.12 0.055
BOC BOUGAINVILLE COPPER 0.1428571429 0.2 0.175 80212496 0.42 0.17
BCN BEACON MINERALS 0.1392405063 0.018 0.0158 36251304 0.0241 0.0149
CHZ CHESSER RESOURCES 0.1337868481 0.05 0.0441 9934159 0.077 0.039
GMN GOLD MOUNTAIN 0.1304347826 0.13 0.115 72119976 0.165 0.075
BGH BLIGH RESOURCES 0.1214953271 0.036 0.0321 10292836 0.0379 0.01
MSR MANAS RESOUCES 0.1 0.0055 0.005 15858975 0.007 0.0025
XAM XANADU MINES 0.08695652174 0.25 0.23 147171824 0.345 0.17
CAV CARNAVALE RESOURCES 0.07142857143 0.015 0.014 9151993 0.027 0.008
OZL OZ MINERALS 0.05731441048 9.685 9.16 2834328576 9.99 6.31
REZ RESOURCES & ENERGY GROUP 0.05 0.105 0.1 10305104 0.15 0.1
TRM TRUSCOTT MINING CORP 0.04166666667 0.025 0.024 2896138.5 0.029 0.018
SIH SIHAYO GOLD 0.01351351351 0.015 0.0148 33376726 0.019 0.0099
TBR TRIBUNE RESOURCES 0.00903614458 6.7 6.64 350204640 8.5 5.7
PIO PIONEER RESOURCES 0 0.024 0.024 35741716 0.046 0.014
NXM NEXUS MINERALS 0 0.089 0.089 7412238 0.145 0.065
MOD MOD RESOURCES 0 0.05 0.05 94837480 0.09 0.046
AYM AUSTRALIA UNITED MINING 0 0.003 0.003 3808598 0.006 0.001
NCM NEWCREST MINING -0.00526797984 21.715 21.83 16362001408 25.33 19.26
DTM DART MINING -0.01234567901 0.008 0.0081 5083205 0.015 0.0036
ALK ALKANE RESOURCES -0.01587301587 0.31 0.315 146767904 0.4125 0.215
VAN VANGO MINING -0.03389830508 0.057 0.059 26246416 0.07 0.039
LCD LATITUDE CONSOLIDATED -0.03448275862 0.028 0.029 3804191 0.036 0.013
EGA EGAN STREET RESOURCES -0.03703703704 0.26 0.27 21591432 0.34 0.21
AME ALTO METALS -0.0375 0.077 0.08 14280379 0.12 0.065
ADN ANDROMEDA METALS -0.04109589041 0.007 0.0073 6253453.5 0.0149 0.0039
AZY ANTIPA MINERALS -0.05263157895 0.018 0.019 21118486 0.0295 0.015
MAT MATSA RESOURCES -0.0537084399 0.185 0.1955 30165164 0.28 0.1455
CHN CHALICE GOLD MINES -0.05555555556 0.17 0.18 45711800 0.26 0.145
OGC OCEANAGOLD CORP-CDI -0.0597826087 3.46 3.68 2118866688 4.88 3.08
CTL CENTENNIAL MINING -0.07692307692 0.012 0.013 11921852 0.024 0.008
ANL AMANI GOLD -0.08 0.023 0.025 32889438 0.047 0.013
SUM SUMATRA COPPER & GOLD -0.08695652174 0.021 0.023 79720744 0.026 0.008
CVS CERVANTES CORP -0.1 0.009 0.01 3179869.75 0.015 0.007
SAU SOUTHERN GOLD -0.1052631579 0.255 0.285 12041885 0.345 0.235
GPR GEOPACIFIC RESOURCES -0.1052631579 0.034 0.038 57661028 0.043 0.022
DAU DAMPIER GOLD -0.1071428571 0.025 0.028 2416003.5 0.052 0.022
EMR EMERALD RESOURCES -0.1086956522 0.041 0.046 88672608 0.052 0.036
AZS AZURE MINERALS -0.109375 0.285 0.32 25089998 0.75 0.22
RIM RIMFIRE PACIFIC MINING -0.1111111111 0.024 0.027 21699984 0.037 0.017
AQG ALACER GOLD CORP -0.1260162602 2.15 2.46 631615360 2.88 1.95
BRB BREAKER RESOURCES -0.1260504202 0.52 0.595 75452832 0.8 0.45
AGG ANGLOGOLD ASHANTI -0.1310344828 2.52 2.9 5249353216 3.49 2.34
AQI ALICANTO MINERALS -0.1515837104 0.15 0.1768 15710844 0.24 0.115
AZM AZUMAH RESOURCES -0.1641791045 0.028 0.0335 18875138 0.037 0.018
SMG SOON MINING -0.1714285714 0.29 0.35 45884620 0.35 0.12
MOY MILLENNIUM MINERALS -0.1818181818 0.225 0.275 169423440 0.29 0.14
WRM WHITE ROCK MINERALS -0.1875 0.013 0.016 11846305 0.02 0.011
DRM DORAY MINERALS -0.1884057971 0.28 0.345 113007872 0.395 0.16
ERM EMMERSON RESOURCES -0.19 0.081 0.1 32442416 0.125 0.065
GCY GASCOYNE RESOURCES -0.1944444444 0.435 0.54 191268896 0.56 0.385
SHK STONE RESOURCES AUSTRALIA -0.2 0.004 0.005 3211508.75 0.006 0.002
DTR DATELINE RESOURCES -0.2 0.032 0.04 22095866 0.043 0.018
MBK METAL BANK -0.2 0.018 0.0225 15868975 0.0313 0.017
IDA INDIANA RESOURCES -0.2140641158 0.076 0.0967 4959431.5 0.145 0.0483
ABU ABM RESOURCES -0.219047619 0.082 0.105 30762940 0.155 0.066
KRM KINGSROSE MINING -0.22 0.078 0.1 54750552 0.105 0.07
ARS ALT RESOURCES -0.2222222222 0.056 0.072 7165048 0.077 0.035
AOA AUSMON RESOURCES -0.2222222222 0.007 0.009 2573475.5 0.011 0.003
RSG RESOLUTE MINING -0.2346278317 1.1825 1.545 863821376 1.49 0.945
MEU MARMOTA -0.2380952381 0.016 0.021 9562254 0.024 0.01
ERL EMPIRE RESOURCES -0.2380952381 0.016 0.021 7731223.5 0.029 0.014
WWI WEST WITS MINING -0.24 0.019 0.025 13639106 0.033 0.016
RVY RIFT VALLEY RESOURCES -0.2413793103 0.022 0.029 17421866 0.035 0.02
LNY LANEWAY RESOURCES -0.25 0.003 0.004 10040198 0.006 0.0025
TMX TERRAIN MINERALS -0.25 0.009 0.012 4994665 0.014 0.006
PGM PLATINA RESOURCES -0.25 0.12 0.16 31695148 0.265 0.077
RMS RAMELIUS RESOURCES -0.2603305785 0.4475 0.605 234519008 0.59 0.32
TYX TYRANNA RESOURCES -0.28 0.018 0.025 12801107 0.032 0.014
IPT IMPACT MINERALS -0.3043478261 0.016 0.023 21146876 0.034 0.013
LLO LION ONE METALS -0.3099415205 0.59 0.855 60134004 0.78 0.45
FML FOCUS MINERALS -0.3191489362 0.32 0.47 58479540 0.5 0.3
CAS CRUSADER RESOURCES -0.3272727273 0.074 0.11 26082006 0.135 0.06
NTM NTM GOLD -0.3333333333 0.05 0.075 15836908 0.078 0.035
MOX MONAX MINING -0.3333333333 0.006 0.009 3495973.25 0.013 0.005
CMM CAPRICORN METALS -0.3333333333 0.08 0.12 59834904 0.135 0.05
AGD AUSTRAL GOLD -0.3333333333 0.12 0.18 56088168 0.2 0.1
S2R S2 RESOURCES -0.3333333333 0.18 0.27 44289440 0.275 0.14
DRA DRAGON MINING -0.34375 0.21 0.32 17768122 0.335 0.17
SWJ STONEWALL RESOURCES -0.3529411765 0.011 0.017 28347666 0.032 0.012
PGO PRIMARY GOLD -0.358974359 0.05 0.078 30708444 0.079 0.036
ARD ARGENT MINERALS -0.3720930233 0.027 0.043 12029033 0.052 0.023
WGX WESTGOLD RESOURCES -0.3734693878 1.535 2.45 544618944 2.71 1.45
TAM TANAMI GOLD -0.3846153846 0.04 0.065 47003880 0.065 0.038
CTO CITIGOLD CORP -0.4 0.006 0.01 11479529 0.013 0.005
VML VITAL METALS -0.4117647059 0.01 0.017 14516579 0.02 0.006
GBM GBM GOLD -0.4166666667 0.007 0.012 7828237 0.018 0.006
AYR ALLOY RESOURCES -0.4166666667 0.007 0.012 8445134 0.011 0.003
WCN WHITE CLIFF MINERALS -0.4202898551 0.004 0.0069 12150069 0.0077 0.0019
LEX LEFROY EXPLORATION -0.431372549 0.145 0.255 9390768 0.26 0.1
BMT BERKUT MINERALS -0.4482758621 0.16 0.29 9233833 0.47 0.14
HRN HORIZON GOLD LIMITED -0.4487179487 0.215 0.39 16836736 0.39 0.215
MRQ MRG METALS -0.4488188976 0.007 0.0127 4857357 0.0154 0.0036
SLR SILVER LAKE RESOURCES -0.44921875 0.3525 0.64 176381632 0.67 0.315
TRY TROY RESOURCES -0.45 0.088 0.16 40899368 0.16 0.065
AWV ANOVA METALS -0.4608695652 0.062 0.115 38811672 0.135 0.058
BSR BASSARI RESOURCES -0.4615384615 0.014 0.026 30166502 0.023 0.013
TNR TORIAN RESOURCES -0.4709677419 0.082 0.155 17169736 0.15 0.06
CGN CRATER GOLD MINING -0.4857142857 0.018 0.035 5030366 0.036 0.008
THX THUNDELARRA -0.4882729211 0.024 0.0469 15877397 0.06 0.02
PNX PNX METALS -0.5 0.012 0.024 11978230 0.028 0.01
NIU NIUMINCO GROUP -0.5 0.002 0.004 4546673.5 0.0045 0.001
MXR MAXIMUS RESOURCES -0.5 0.0015 0.003 4540953 0.003 0.001
BAR BARRA RESOURCES -0.5 0.046 0.092 22739898 0.095 0.033
PGI PANTERRA GOLD -0.5205479452 0.035 0.073 4509015.5 0.072 0.026
WPG WPG RESOURCES -0.5230769231 0.031 0.065 28125996 0.077 0.015
KGM KALNORTH GOLD MINES -0.5294117647 0.008 0.017 7153920.5 0.018 0.007
GES GENESIS RESOURCES -0.5555555556 0.008 0.018 6008684 0.05 0.008
GBZ GBM RESOURCES -0.5625 0.007 0.016 6044969 0.022 0.007
MRP MACPHERSONS RESOURCES -0.5652173913 0.1 0.23 40368048 0.3 0.105
ORR ORECORP -0.5688073394 0.235 0.545 50857012 0.585 0.12
KZR KALAMAZOO RESOURCES -0.5948717949 0.079 0.195 6801982.5 0.23 0.07
OVL ORO VERDE -0.6 0.008 0.02 6108948 0.023 0.006
TRL TANGA RESOURCES -0.6 0.014 0.035 8150679.5 0.04 0.008
HAV HAVILAH RESOURCES -0.6169711255 0.26 0.6788 58927244 0.6984 0.17
SMI SANTANA MINERALS -0.619047619 0.016 0.042 5055704.5 0.049 0.014
MNC METMINCO -0.6195652174 0.035 0.092 4452010.5 0.092 0.035
IVR INVESTIGATOR RESOURCES -0.6315789474 0.014 0.038 11099580 0.04 0.014
SMD SYNDICATED METALS -0.6363636364 0.008 0.022 5083939 0.025 0.008
CLZ CLASSIC MINERALS -0.6428571429 0.005 0.014 4449978.5 0.02 0.003
AHK ARK MINES -0.6486486486 0.065 0.185 3193418 0.2 0.049
BDR BEADELL RESOURCES -0.649122807 0.1 0.285 114709072 0.33 0.09
FNT FRONTIER RESOURCES -0.6511627907 0.015 0.043 1564152.25 0.054 0.014
SVL SILVER MINES -0.6756756757 0.06 0.185 27087102 0.185 0.058
CRB CARBINE RESOURCES -0.6916666667 0.037 0.12 7390629 0.13 0.028
RBX RESOURCE BASE -0.7 0.036 0.12 989689.4375 0.135 0.006
PDI PREDICTIVE DISCOVERY -0.7231543624 0.033 0.1192 8264972.5 0.1192 0.033
CAI CALIDUS RESOURCES -0.86 0.042 0.3 54040076 0.3 0.019
BLK BLACKHAM RESOURCES -0.8734177215 0.054 0.4266 67070912 0.4232 0.031

 

Canada, Australia and the US continued to be the top three destinations for exploration spending.

And exploration spend is expected to grow further this year.

“Despite significant market volatility, the generally positive trend in metals prices has continued in early 2018,” Mr Ferguson said.

“We therefore expect the global exploration budget for 2018 to increase by a further 15 per cent to 20 per cent year-over-year.”

Lower drilling rate worrying

Although exploration spend is on the rise, the number of metres drilled fell in the December quarter last year, which the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) has expressed concern over.

Compared to the previous quarter, the total metres drilled fell by 5.1 per cent — with brownfield exploration slipping 2.9 per cent and greenfield exploration dropping 9 per cent.

Greenfield refers to the exploration of new ground where a discovery has not yet been made, while brownfield refers to near-mine exploration undertaken to expand production at an existing operation.

“While the rise in mineral exploration expenditure is good, the fall in meters drilled is a concern,” AMEC CEO Warren Pearce said.

“The fall in greenfields mineral exploration is particularly worrying.”

Total Australian exploration expenditure rose 4.4 per cent to $20.9 million in the December quarter. The largest increase came from gold exploration, which rose 8.3 per cent to $16 million.

AMEC has been advocating for regulatory reform to encourage greater mineral exploration and mining in Australia.

The organisation is pushing for a new exploration tax credit, which has been tabled and passed through the House of Representatives but is yet to pass the Senate.

The four-year $100 million Junior Mineral Exploration Tax Credit would allow explorers with no mining income to renounce and pass on future tax deductions to Australian resident investors.