Over the past two years the international minerals industry has been hard hit all over the world and New Zealand is no exception with its cessation of large-scale exploratory mining, but national minerals manager for NZ Petroleum and Minerals, Ilana Miller, sees a light at the end of the tunnel.
Miller manages the team responsible for the allocation and management of the Crown’s minerals portfolio and notes there has been a marked recovery in exploration with a 50 percent increase in spending on the previous financial year. Among them, Australian gold mining majors Newcrest and Evolution Mining have started drilling campaigns in Hauraki and in Northland, and OceanaGold has had encouraging results from its drilling campaigns in Otago’s Coronation mine.
The international market has improved markedly with gold, iron ore and even coal prices rising in the first half of 2016. Gold production is currently at its highest since 1993 reflecting a 25 percent increase in the global price, while iron ore prices have increased by 40 percent.
Miller also notes the government has funded aeromagnetic surveys in Northland, on the West Coast and, more recently, set aside $6.4 million for more minerals data work, including aeromagnetic surveys in Nelson/Marlborough, Otago and Southland.
She believes the country remains relatively underexplored and has real potential for further mineral discoveries.
“To encourage exploration we need to de-risk investment – and proving prospectivity is the key. As part of the government’s data programme we’ve already flown 80,000 kilometres in the Nelson and Marlborough region. When the current aeromagnetic programme at the top and bottom of the South Island finishes in 2018, more than 30 percent of NZ will be covered with modern high-quality aeromagnetic data.”
The Minister for Energy and Resources also recently announced a 4600 square kilometre survey extension in the Murchison area.
“Once complete we will have a seamless dataset linking Nelson and Marlborough with the 2013 government funded survey of the West Coast,” says Miller.
“The Murchison area has much potential and the aeromagnetic data will reveal more about its prospectivity.”
Miller also believes further investment in geochemical surveying this summer, in Southland, Otago, Nelson and Murchison, will give us a picture of the elements in the soil.
“The minerals industry plays a major role in the economy, contributing more than $1 billion to GDP, providing well-paid jobs, producing vital inputs for industry, and adding significantly to our exports. Continuing to invest for success will ensure a bright future for the industry and New Zealand.” By Peter Owens.