Chile Exploration Spending – 2022 Summary
Over the last couple years, it has generally been agreed by analysts that the supply of copper will become extremily tight unless new projects can be brought online. Long-term demand for copper is expected to increase due to the the base metal being an essential element needed for the energy transition. Everything from electric vehicles to energy storage will require copper.
Many producing copper mines are facing declining production, mainly due to social/community issues, water scarcity, lower grades, etc. For the mining industry to grow production significantly to meet this future demand, it will be critical that there is a combination of brown and greenfield projects advancing to production. Equally important is that exploration spending increases so that there are new discoveries that can feed into the pipeline.
For this reason, it is good to keep an eye on major copper markets. Each year, Chile Copper Commision (Cochilco), publishes a report that analysis junior mining investment. They have recently published their report that highlights exploration spending in 2022. Below we have provided an overview.
Overview of Report
The focus of the report is exploration spending, with a particular focus on junior miners. The purpose of focusing on the junior segment is to analyze the progress and status of those exploration projects that can eventually become technically feasible and economically attractive.
Chile vs Global
- In 2022, global exploration activity continued to grow, mainly because the end of covid restrictions and a general increase in commodity prices since 2020.
- Global exploration grew at an average growth rate of 24.8% per year since 2020.
- The junior segment made up 43.1% of the overall exploration spending which is the highest since 2013.
- Latin America and Canada continue to lead the budget allocation of exploration and mining companies, reaching 25.1% and 20.6% of the global total respectively. It is followed by Australia, which obtains 17.8% of the budget in 2022.
- In 2022, Chile recovers its position as the main exploration budget destination in Latin America with a 21.9% share, since in 2021 it had been surpassed by Mexico.
- Chile recorded an exploration budget of US$713.2 million, positioning it as the fourth most important destination worldwide with a 5.48% share, surpassed only by the US, Canada, and Australia.
Investment in Chile
- The metal most sought in Chile is copper. The percentage of dollars being spent is on copper exploration makes up 74% of the total investment in Chile. It is followed by gold which takes up 21% of the budget.
- The country with the largest exploration investment in Chile is the United Kingdom, with a total spending of US$ 237.1 million. United Kingdom makes up 33.2% of total spending in 2022. Canada follows with a 24.4% share for investment of US$173.7 million.
- In terms of majors, Anglo American investment is equal to 18% of the budget, followed by Antofagasta Minerals with 12% and CODELCO with 11%.
Junior miners in Chile
- In 2022, there was 88 junior mining companies registered in Chile. An increase of 7.3% from the 21 period when there was only 82.
- Of the 88 exploration companies registered in 2022, 62 of them are active, that is, they present at least one project with advances in exploration, resource estimation, studies or have acquired participation in properties. This is an increase of 31.9% compared to 2020 for the number of active companies.
- Of the total number of exploration companies with prospects in Chile, Canada reaches first place with a 48% share out of a total of 88. Australian has 27% of the other exploration companies and Chilean mining companies with 16%.
- The main source of capital and financing for these companies are stock exchanges specializing in mining and exploration, such as the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). Of the 88 registered companies, 68 are financed through the issuance of shares on the stock exchanges, and 59 of them specifically from the ASX or TSX stock exchanges.
Exploration is an important part of a healthy mining ecosystem. It is no secret that large copper deposits are becoming more elusive. Companies are having to explore deeper and farther away. To find new deposits, exploration spending needs to increase which is why it is important to monitor investment.
The Chilean project pipeline reached $73b for the 2022-2031 period across 53 projects according to Cochilco. This is an increase from 51 projects and $68.93 billion that was reported in 2021. Historically, most of Chile’s project pipeline were mainly brownfield projects but this has recently changed. The total of greenfield projects jumped to $28.51 billion, from $19.20 billion, but still accounted for only 38.71% of that total.
It is positive signs that exploration spending is recovering but it will take substantially more investment to ensure there is a steady supply of projects for the future. Particularly with copper as a focus. Reports like this from the Chile Copper Commision (Cochilco) help us measure the sector health to understand the trends.
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