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Exploration spending freefall expected to continue this year

The Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines expects exploration and deposit appraisal spending in the province to decline 30 per cent to $357 million this year – the fourth year in a row of declining exploration activity since record expenditures of just shy of $1.1 billion in 2011.

The final number for 2014 came in at $507 million, down from $562 million recorded in 2013.

Junior exploration companies accounted for only 18 per cent of the $507 million – down from a 25 per cent share the previous year.

Gold continued to be the most sought-after mineral in Ontario in 2014, accounting for expenditures of $357 million. Exploration for base metals totalled $120 million.

The number of active mining claims units in good standing declined 15 per cent – from 278,000 to 235,000 – with the largest decline occurring in the Patricia District in northwestern Ontario.

Of the $507 million in exploration spending in 2014, $84 million was spent on minesites, and $423 million off minesites.

Despite the precipitous decline in 2014, Ontario maintained its status as Canada’s preeminent jurisdiction for exploration, accounting for 26.2 per cent of expenditures in the country. However, according to projections published by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, Ontario will see its share of Canadian expenditures fall to 18.5 per cent in 2015, leaving Quebec in first place.

The stats reporting the value of mineral production in Ontario were much more encouraging. In 2014, the value of mineral production in Ontario was $11 billion – up from the $10.2 billion reported the previous year.

Gold accounted for $3.4 billion of the total and nickel for $1.9 billion, followed by copper ($1.6 billion), PGMs ($776 million), diamonds ($432 million) and zinc ($132 million). A little over $2 billion worth of stone, cement, sand and gravel and salt are included in the $11 billion.

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