Exploration for minerals is the only remaining hunter gatherer activity that still plays any significant role in today’s global economy. Even though the industry has made tremendous technical progress particularly over the last 50 years, with new
exploration technologies and theoretical geological models, it is still impossible to predict with any certainty the outcome of a planned geological exploration campaign. There is still a considerable element of luck or in other words: the investment risk is still very high.
This uncertainty and high risks have made investments into new exploration projects vary quite considerably over time. It is clear that the main factor driving mineral exploration is metal prices or indirectly metal demand. The aim of this paper is to discuss this and other drivers in some detail and in later papers to apply the conclusions of this broader first paper to various geographical regions and to various time periods. The difficulty to predict exploration results also has important bearing on the presently growing discussion of “peak metal” production. A dangerous misconception that threatens logical and scientific decisions about the role of metals and minerals in the future economy of the world.
EXPLORATION And Its Study
From a societal point of view the strong, short term variations up and down in exploration expenditure are increasing the uncertainties about future metal production levels in both the short and long term.
The variations are further a waste of resources in that in periods of high demand for exploration services prices increase at a higher pace than in other parts of the economy. Only to fall dramatically, in some cases just a year later. Further many projects get started only to be closed down before the projects have come to an optimal stage and can be properly evaluated. There are considerable costs associated with starting and stopping projects, which result in a waste of funds and human resources when projects are operated in an on/off manner rather than extended until they are completed according to original plan. The industry, and society, would be better served by a steady flow of project.
Exploration is the foundation of all mining. Exploration expenditure determines the rate of discovery of future mineral deposits and mines. There is a lack of exploration and more societal support of exploration is necessary. Exploration is a little known business and based on the discussion in this brief chapter it seems reasonable that there is a need for both more exploration and more exploration statistics.
Mineral exploration is the process of finding ore (commercially viable concentration of mineral) to mine. Mineral exploration vary at different stages of the process depending on the size of the area being explore as well as the density and type of information sought. Aside from extra planetary exploration, at the largest scale is a geological mineral province; at the smaller scale are mineral prospects which may contain mineral deposits.