Grassroots exploration surging

EXPLORATION appeared to be risk-off in 2021, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence's 2022 World Exploration Trends report.
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New dawn for exploration

While non-ferrous exploration budgets increased 35% in 2021 to an eight-year high of US$11.24 billion and the number of companies with exploration budgets increased 10% to 1948, exploration focused on relatively stable and well-known jurisdictions such as Canada, Australia and Latin America.

With the financing window open to juniors in late 2020 and early 2021, equity financings of at least $2 million jumped 89% in 2021 to total $20.53 billion, although with a cycling away from gold as its share fell to 36% from 51% in 2020, while financing for copper nearly quadrupled year over year as exploration budgets increased 31%. This boosted junior exploration budgets 65% to $4.1 billion, although exploration investment in 2021 was still dominated by majors with $5.6 billion, up 27% from 2020.

Latin America remained the top region for exploration despite below-average growth of 29%, attracting 24%, or $2.66 billion, of the global budget. Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Peru all saw budget increases in 2021. This perhaps would have been more if not for COVID-19 restrictions in Latin America.

With pipelines and discovery rates in many metals relatively bare and low, the good news is that grassroots exploration budgets were up 45% in 2021 to $2.91 billion, the largest percentage increase since 2011, mainly for precious metals and mainly in Canada and Australia. As a result, the number of maiden resource estimates increased 18% to 65, although this palls compared to the 175 such announcements in 2012.