Drilling drives activity

NEW figures have shown that the pipeline of global mining industry activity remained steady in July-August, buoyed by a promising increase in exploration.
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Metals Economics Group's Pipeline Activity Index dropped slightly as miners remained under funding pressure, though a strong increase in maiden resources and drilling activity kept the index afloat.

The report said the industry's aggregate market capitalisation had stabilised since plummeting in May but had remained below $US2 trillion ($A1.9 trillion) for six consecutive months, the longest stretch for two years.

MEG suggested that September quarter earnings would be the next test for the industry.

Financings of more than $2 million were higher in August than in July but the combined total of $1.32 billion raised across 96 raisings was the lowest two-month total since 2008.

"Explorers are coping by focusing on priority targets and avoiding wasteful spending, which so far has helped the overall junior sector evade large-scale slashing of exploration spending," MEG said.

"However, at some point in the near term financing conditions will need to improve or junior exploration spending will inevitably suffer."

Drilling results still flooded in thick and fast and MEG reported copper and silver to be the most sought-after metals.

In positive findings, maiden resource announcements outperformed 2010 and 2011, with the 29 initial figures reported in July and August the highest two-month total since late 2008.

"Although many new resources are considered small, it is still encouraging that every region reported at least one initial resource estimate in July-August," MEG said.

The largest two resources were the 3.1 million ounce gold resource announced by ASX-listed Papillon Resources at its Fekola project in Mali and the 482,000 tonne copper resource at Vancouver-based NovaCopper's Ambler project in Alaska.

Based on the number of discoveries made so far this year, MEG expects initial resource announcements to remain strong.

The MEG Pipeline Activity Index measures the level and direction of overall activity in the mining sector, encompassing drill results, maiden resources, project development milestones and significant financings.

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