Junior explorers operating in Western Australia may receive some relief after the state government said it would offer exemptions from exploration expenditure requirements.

Under the state’s regime, explorers are usually required to meet minimum exploration expenditure requirements in order to retain their tenements.

However, Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston has enabled an exemption from expenditure requirements if the tenement holder is unable to meet them as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, or restrictions imposed by the state and federal governments.

He also noted that the state government was working to identify further opportunities to assist local companies in the mining sector.

“Our mining industry has played a huge part in the growth and development of this state, and it will continue to play an important role for years to come,” Johnston added.

Australian resource and energy export earnings are still forecast to hit a record $299bn in the 2019-20 financial year, up $18bn from the previous year.

The news was welcomed by the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, which said the move – the first of its kind in Australia – would relieve some of the immediate financial pressures faced by junior explorers.

“The reality for mineral exploration is that without significant cost relief from government, many small exploration companies will not survive COVID-19,” AMEC chief executive Warren Pearce said.

He added that while it was pleasing that Western Australia had implemented the exemption from minimum exploration expenditures, explorers were still required to pay mining tenement rental fees and local government rates, both of which were large fixed costs.

“With recent announcements restricting access to large parts of the state for exploration, and further restrictions anticipated, such cost relief measures are both fair and reasonable.”

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