Mineral Exploration Land Access Expenditure 2001-02 (Supplement Survey of)

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)


    The survey provides data on expenses incurred by the mining industry to access land for mineral exploration. Specifically collecting a category of expense items incurred to obtain land access for mineral exploration purposes. The expense items are dissected by 'internal to the business' and 'outsourced to a third party'. State/Territory/Australia total mineral exploration land access expenditure is also available.


    The issue of the cost of land access has been identified by the mining industry as a priority area for which information is needed. The ABS is conducting the survey in response to needs expressed by (amongst others) the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC), the Ministerial Council on Mineral and Petroleum Resources (MCMPR), and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources (ITR).

    Land access has been a major issue in the mining industry particularly since the Native Title Act, 1994 came into force. Users have suggested that costs associated with legislation requirements (environment protection, native title, cultural heritage, etc) may be adding significantly to the traditional costs associated with mineral exploration. It is believed that these costs may be affecting mining operations, increasing the lead-time of getting a mine into operation, and the granting of mineral exploration leases/tenements in Australia. There were also suggestions that overseas exploration has grown at the expense of exploration within Australia and that this could impact on the future viability of the industry. Certainly in the last few years, exploration expenditure has dropped significantly and concerns are that this could have a long term impact on the mining industry. No comprehensive, reliable information is available to test this assumption.

    At the 1998 and the 1999 ABS Mining User Advisory Group meetings attended by Federal and State Governments and industry organisations, COLA was recognised as being the most important unmet statistical demand for the mining industry. The participants were very keen for ABS to provide statistics on COLA. In early 2001, the (then) Department of Industry, Science and Resources (ISR) on behalf of the Australia New Zealand Minerals and Energy Council (ANZMEC) and Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) approached the ABS to undertake a joint study to determine the feasibility of collecting information on COLA.

    The feasibility study which included a pilot test was completed in October 2001. ABS findings indicated that
      - a collection to identify COLA costings is feasible
      - conducting a retrospective collection would carry risks of data availability problems for some providers and this would be compounded by the lack of a suitable means of imputing for non-response.
      - a more complete response would be gained if the exploration, tenement management and accounts areas liaised in the completion of the questionnaire.
    The primary outcome required of the project is to deliver quality information on COLA to users, in particular ITR, to assist them in evaluating the extent of the cost involved and where the costs are incurred. This initiative will support a number of ITR Departmental objectives:
    • Information on the nature and magnitude of land access costs would provide information to assess industry claims that costs are hindering exploration and contributing to low levels of exploration. Information provided by a COLA collection will be most useful to the proposed Action Agenda on Mineral Exploration, which will examine this issue in detail;
    • Specific information on the costs of native title negotiations could support a broader role for the Ministerial Council on Mineral and Petroleum Resources (MCMPR) in this area;

    The collection covers all businesses engaged in seeking land to access within Australia for mineral exploration purposes.


    Conceptual framework

    The Supplement to Mineral Exploration Survey - Land Access Expenditure 2001-02 asked providers to report all land access expenditure costs for mineral exploration purposes incurred within Australia during financial year 2001-02. The unit of collection is at the managing operator level and is determined by the respondent. It may vary from the enterprise group to divisions in the group to another outsourced company which manages the explorers access and tenement management tasks.

    Cost of land access expenditure: Include all expenses involved in obtaining (or attempting to obtain) access to land for mineral exploration purposes. The expenses may include payments made at the commencement of the exploration cycle (such as exploration license application fees) through to notification, negotiation, and other processes up to the point where access is obtained to physically commence the mineral exploration or attempts to access land have been abandoned. On-going mineral exploration access contractual payments are in-scope.

    Minerals: Are a naturally occurring inorganic element or compound having an orderly internal structure and characteristic chemical composition, crystal form, and physical properties. These, for example, comprise of metallic minerals, such as copper, silver, lead-zinc, nickel, cobalt, gold, iron ore, mineral sands, uranium and non-metallic minerals such as coal, diamonds, and other precious and semi-precious stones and construction materials (e.g. gravel and sand).

    Exploration: Activity involves searching for concentrations of naturally occurring solid, liquid or gaseous materials and includes new field wildcat and stratigraphical and extension/appraisal wells and mineral appraisals intended to delineate or greatly extend the limits of known deposits by geological, geophysical, geochemical, drilling or other methods. This includes drilling of boreholes, construction of shafts and adits primarily for exploration purposes but excludes activity of a developmental or production nature. Exploration for water is excluded.

    Note: Exploration expenditure and minerals being explored for were sourced from the existing quarterly Mineral exploration survey.

    Exploration expenditure: Covers all expenditure (capitalised and non-capitalised) during the exploratory or evaluation stages in Australia. Costs include cost of exploration, determination of recoverable reserves, engineering and economic feasibility studies, procurement of finance, gaining access to reserves, construction of pilot plants and all technical and administrative overheads directly associated with these functions. Examples are costs of satellite imagery, airborne and seismic surveys, use of geophysical and other instruments, geochemical surveys and map preparation; licence fees, land access and legal costs; geologist inspections, chemical analysis and payments to employees and contractors.

    Main outputs

    Aggregated data was produced, subject to the data being of acceptable quality. The results were accompanied by an "indicator of confidence" table which provides indicative information about the significance of those responding or not responding. The significance is measured in terms of total mineral exploration expenditure on non-production leases during 2001-02.
      Specific output tables include:
        land access expenditure by nature of expenditure (values and percent)
        land access expenditure by size of business and nature of expenditure (values)
        land access expenditure and mineral exploration expenditure by size of business (values and percent)
        total land access expenditure and mineral exploration expenditure by State/Territory/Australia (values and percent)
        minerals sought by land access expenditure, States/Territory/Australia (values)


      At State level and Australia. Cost of Land Access uses the formal Australia/State/Territory classification. Expenditure (cost) items were investigated and tested during the 2001 feasibility project. Category of minerals explored for as per quarterly MINEX collection.

      Other concepts (summary)

      New South Wales
      South Australia
      Western Australia
      Northern Territory

      Comments and/or Other Regions
      Total cost of land access expenditure is available at State/Territory level with the component expenditure items available at Australia level.

      Once Only

      Frequency comments
      User funded survey for one year period

      Currently, a one-off collection, but could be repeated in the future.


      Data availability comments
      Some cells were supressed in accordance with ABS confidentiality policy.

      26/11/2003 09:08 AM