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Walking around the exhibit booths of Australian mining and exploration companies at the Hong Kong Mines and Money conference sent me a strong signal. Perhaps 60 to 70 per cent of Australia’s mineral exploration budgets are being spent outside of Australia. Much of it in quite harsh and remote countries.

One could ask: “Are there no new mines to be discovered in Australia?” Or: “Doesn’t Australia desperately need new mines to replace our diminishing reserves? Why is the money flowing elsewhere?”

The answer was simple.

Despite the prime exploration targets at home here in Australia, the Australian approvals process impedes progress and drives such investment elsewhere. State and Federal Governments come and go, but the bureaucracy and red tape, pink tape, dark green and black tape, remains firmly in place.

Why is there no outcry and why will nothing change? Because Australians and their investment dollars and technical skills are made extremely welcome elsewhere.

These three prime Australian exports are also extremely portable and will continue to go where they are made welcome. This will be to the great benefit of the shareholders, but to the long term detriment to the Australian nation.

I appeared to be the only person concerned at this drift of dollars. There was a feeling that it would be best not to draw too much attention to this problem lest governments, in their rush to be doing something, proceed with inappropriate remedies.

Rather than bulldoze the impediments out of the way, they may instead think it more popular to tax ‘exported exploration dollars’ or even make it illegal to go exploring around the world.

Anyone else out there concerned about this?



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