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Despite the importance of minerals and the need to discover more, especially critical minerals, there are many challenges that currently face mineral explorers; from access to land to assess to money, explorers need to be socially responsible and innovative to overcome the barriers to finding the next major mineral deposit. Below we explore 6 challenges that mineral explorers need to overcome.
Land located near towns, and on agricultural land and conservation reserves are no longer accessible for exploration. In the conflict between land uses, often mineral exploration and mining comes second. As existing mineral deposits in many areas become scarce or depleted, explorers are forced to push into new frontiers to conduct exploration.
Desert regions of Western Australia are more accessible for exploration but are covered by thick layers of soils, sand and barren rocks. Although these regions may contain huge mineral resources, it is expensive exploration and the risks are high, but rewards can be large.
To explore these desert regions, sophisticated exploration methods need to be employed to increase the chances for success.
Access to risk funding is one of the biggest issues facing junior mineral explorers.
Exploration costs are high and investors are reticent to engage with new projects, in remote locations. Juniors, who lack the capital and income flow of the major miners, face the challenge of raising the necessary capital to invest in increasingly expensive exploration.
Nervous investors and a lack of access to capital has meant exploration in many high-potential regions have been scrapped or shelved. Flexible finance has become an increasingly popular solution and it enables exploration companies to continue to push the barriers of exploration.
Commodity prices influence the confidence of investors to support junior explorers. Low commodity prices result in minimum investor interest that translate into less financial support for explorer. High commodity prices result in a shortage of exploration professional and drill rigs. Hence. volatile commodity prices make it extremely difficult for explorers to plan the injection of capital and therefore expenditure on exploration.
Explorers and miners are extensively regulated with laws that are constantly changing.
The ability to explore for minerals in certain regions may be denied, even when valid exploration licences have been approved. All mineral explorers need have expertise to manage the complex government process to not only obtain exploration rights, but also to gain access to the land and retain any mineral deposit that is discovered.
Exploration and mining are often considered a dangerous activity. The traditional occupational hazards such as coal dust inhalation, damage to hearing due to the noise in a mine and chemical hazards still stand but the changing nature of mining has led to a raft of new issues.
As exploration is moves into new frontiers, whether they are remote locations or countries of high sovereign risks and unstable or corrupt governments, the lack of medical facilities, poses a serious risk the staff of explorers.
With a rise in surface temperatures and an increasingly unpredictable climate, inclement weather can pose hazards that need to be managed, removed or significantly reduced.
The initial stages of mineral exploration normally requires minimum ground disturbance and hence clearing of vegetation. However, successful exploration involves extensive drilling and ultimate excavations. Mineral deposits, by there very nature are geologically rare and have distinct features, such as rock types or rock alteration zones. These distinct features can result in distinct and often rare vegetation. The need to preserve this rare vegetation may lead to refusal to explore or a lack of guarantee that what is discovered will obtain environmental mining approval.
These challenges lend support to the concept that the best chance for successful mineral exploration is not just exploring prospective regions and also the calibre of management to overcome these 6 main exploration challenges.