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Africa’s early-stage exploration trends

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Africa’s early-stage exploration trends

S & P Global’s World Exploration Trends 2024 report makes for interesting reading if early-stage mineral exploration projects are on your radar.    

According to the report, Africa’s exploration budget was USD1.27-billion for 2023, down 3.4%, slightly more than the global average.

The largest decline came from Mali as the country’s budget dropped by USD71-million, or 46%, year-over-year.

Interesting though is that budgets in Burkina Faso and Tanzania also registered heavy losses.

According to the report the best performers in Africa in 2023 were Guinea and Zambia, where exploration budgets grew by USD40-million and USD37-million, or by 83% and 89%, respectively.

Global exploration trends (Africa’s early-stage exploration trends)

According to the S&P Report changes in the global exploration budgets for gold and critical metals copper, nickel and lithium have greatly influenced the trends for 2023.

Declines for gold and increases for critical metals have shaped the budget story per stage in different ways.

For example, increased budgets for copper and lithium exploration in late-stage assets lifted the stage’s total despite declines in gold.

For mine-site exploration, however, such was not the case, as increased allocations to copper, nickel and lithium merely cushioned the drop in gold budgets.

Decreased gold activity was also the main driver of lower grassroots budgets in 2023, mainly in Australia and Canada.

In general, copper, nickel and lithium all had budget growth in 2023, with copper focus swinging between late-stage and mine site assets in recent years, nickel activities increasingly directed in mines and lithium efforts mostly dedicated to late-stage projects.

Junior companies have prioritised late-stage exploration in most years since 2000, while major producers have generally increasingly directed their focus on their existing mines since records began in the late 1990s.

A looming supply deficit (Africa’s early-stage exploration trends)

In 2023, juniors posted the most substantial budget declines in their mine site assets, and majors posted their most significant decreases in grassroots projects, but both company groups increased their allocations to late-stage properties.

The persisting general lack of interest in generative exploration further exacerbates the looming supply deficit forecast for many commodities over the coming years.

As discovery rates for key metals such as gold, copper, and nickel have yet to pick up, the increased focus on greenfield exploration remains necessary to find the deposits that will meet future demand.

According to S&P the tepid metal price environment and financing activity levels forecast for 2024 will restrict any rapid turn-around in grassroots exploration, with companies opting to spend their available cash on their existing advanced assets.

Budgets in areas with high junior activity, such as Canada and Australia, slipped while regions with a higher weighting of major mining companies, such as Latin America and the US, fared much better.

Africa’s early-stage exploration trends

Africa’s early-stage exploration trends
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Africa’s early-stage exploration trends


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