Exploration applications on the rise

IN A positive sign for the industry, the Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum has seen an increase in the number of exploration license applications, as well as an increase in mineral title approvals.
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Karma Barndon

The high approval rate corresponds with a 16% increase in exploration licence applications, extending from 466 in the March 2015 quarter to 541 this year.

Minister for Mines and Petroleum Sean L'Estrange said while the increase seemed modest, any growth was encouraging as WA tries to move on from the global downturn in commodity prices.

"I am also pleased the Liberal National government is keeping pace with its previous best-ever quarter for mineral titles approvals, which was the December quarter last year and once again we have surpassed the target of finalising more than 80% of applications within target timelines,” he said.

DMP tenure and native title general manager Tony Bullen said the increase showed that prospectors and mining companies were actively picking up ground to look for new finds.

“It is imperative that mineral title applications are finalised in good time and land is not sterilised from access while stalled under application,” Bullen said.

“Meeting benchmark timelines for approvals ensures ground remains open for further resource exploration and development.”

The DMP received 5629 mineral title, exploration and mining activity applications in 2015, with 97% finalised within the timeline target of 65 business days, with L’Estrange accrediting the improved response times to his department's switch to online processing.

The department also handled 2459 program of work applications in 2015 and finalised 95% within 30 business days.

Also, 100% of resource safety project management plans were approved, along with 85% of radiation management plans, within the 30 business day timeframe.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia CEO Reg Howard-Smith said the exploration application rise was a positive sign.

“Without ongoing investment in exploration activities, many resources would remain undiscovered, stifling the growth and prosperity of the sector and the economy into the future, risking employment, investment and government revenue,” he said.

“It is vital the next pipeline of resources projects are discovered through active exploration of Western Australia.”