Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Western Australia’s mining industry continues to show its strength with exploration Programme of Work (PoW) applications reaching a five-year high.

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety recorded a 63 per cent increase in applications in July and August.

Notably, the department finalised 99 per cent of the 317 PoW applications it received in August within the new 15 business day target that came into effect in July.

“There’s been a big spike in the number of Programme of Work applications submitted in August, which is very positive news for the sector and Western Australia,” Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said.

The state has also trimmed the mine safety levy and offered explorers the opportunity to apply for exemptions from exploration expenditure requirements.


Gold leading the way

Unsurprisingly, the high price of gold – now trading in the new normal range above $US1,900 ($2,612) an ounce – means that gold exploration accounted for 70 per cent of these applications.

Gold is followed by base metals and iron ore.

“These encouraging figures indicate that Western Australia’s exploration sector is thriving, aided by the efforts of Streamline WA,” Johnston added.

He also praised the department for finalising such a large number of applications despite the halved timeframe and finite resources.

“The timeframe reduction will have a direct benefit to the mining industry and as we can see it is already promoting economic activity in the regions,” he noted.

Industry approval

The increased activity was also noted by the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies with its chief executive officer Warren Pearce saying it is an encouraging increase that showed strong confidence in the returning strength of the exploration sector in the state.

“The ability of the State government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Western Australia has provided certainty around land access. This has meant that companies were able to focus their efforts on projects in the state,” he added.

Pearce also noted that Australian mining saw a substantial increase in investment dollars with a BDO report showing that there was a 60 per cent increase in cash inflows during the June quarter to $1.34bn.

This is well up from the four-year low of $834m in the March 2020 quarter.

“28 companies were able to raise funds of $10 million or more, up from 12 companies in the March 2020 quarter, with gold companies ahead. These recent capital raisings are now translating into action on the ground,” Pearce noted.

Exploration expenditure in Western Australia has also increased by $45.3m to $412.4m in the June quarter.