8412.0 - Mineral and Petroleum Exploration, Australia, Dec 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/03/2004   
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For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or Didier Rivet on Sydney 02 9268 4357.

Summary Commentary



The trend estimate for total mineral exploration expenditure was relatively flat throughout 2003 after rising in the previous four quarters. The trend estimate is now 2.9% higher than in the December quarter 2002.

Graph: Mineral Exploration (Other than for Petroleum)

The trend for most states and territories was similarly flat, with increases in Western Australia cancelling out falls in the Northern Territory.

The trend estimate for metres drilled decreased by 0.4% after four consecutive quarters of growth. However the current estimate is 13.1% higher than the December quarter estimate for the previous year.


In original terms, mineral exploration expenditure increased by $19.8m (11.0%) in the December quarter 2003 (up 4.6% in seasonally adjusted terms). Expenditure on production leases fell by $2.2m (4.6%), whereas expenditure on all other areas increased substantially, by $22.1m (16.8%).

The overall increase was a result of Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland having moderate increases. Western Australia had the largest increase, up $13.5m (12.4%), driven by an increase in exploration for Nickel and cobalt. In seasonally adjusted terms, again Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales all showed moderate increases with all other states recording slight decreases.

In terms of minerals sought, exploration for all commodities other than Gold, Mineral sands and Uranium (each of which fell slightly) recorded an increase in the December quarter 2003. The largest increase came from Nickel and cobalt (up $8.4m or 58.3%).

Mineral Exploration Expenditure, Original series
Graph: Mineral Exploration Expenditure, Original Series


In original terms, total metres drilled decreased by 5.6% in the December quarter 2003 (up 2.9% in seasonally adjusted terms).

Metres drilled on both production leases and all other areas decreased, by 4.0% and 6.2%, respectively.

METRES DRILLED, Original series
Graph: Metres Drilled, Original Series



In the December quarter 2003, expenditure on petroleum exploration rose by $57.4m (24.9%) to $288.1m, the highest level since March 2001. Petroleum expenditure was $17.7m (6.6%) higher than in the December quarter 2002. There was a significant increase in exploration on areas other than production leases (up $68.1m or 37.0%), while exploration on production leases fell by $10.7m (or 23.0%).

Onshore exploration expenditure recorded a substantial increase of $41.3m (105.1%), mainly as a result of onshore drilling. Offshore exploration increased slightly by $16.1m (8.4%), with a rise in non-drilling activity offsetting a fall in drilling.

Graph: Petroleum Exploration Expenditure


In the December quarter 2003 most states recorded an increase, most notably Victoria (up $23.1m or 330%) and Queensland (up $15.4m or 73.0%).