The declaration of Western Australia as the most attractive jurisdiction in the world for mining and mineral investment has been welcomed by industry but the release of the annual Fraser Institute global survey of mining investment attitudes comes with an implicit caution: it doesn’t take much to slip out of favour in the highly competitive sector.

For instance, the Canadian-based independent think tank has found that not one of Canada’s provinces or territories ranked in the top 10 of mining jurisdictions – the first time in a decade that has occurred.

The most attractive areas for mining investment, from the Fraser Institute’s survey of mining executives that ranked 76 jurisdictions based on their attractiveness in terms of minerals and metals plus government policies that encourage or deter exploration and investment, showed:

1. Western Australia

2. Finland

3. Nevada

4. Alaska

5. Portugal

6. South Australia

7. Republic of Ireland

8. Idaho

9. Arizona

10. Sweden

At the other end of the table, the least attractive jurisdictions for mining investment are:

67. Nicaragua

68. Mali

69. Democratic Republic of Congo

70. Venezuela

71. Zambia

72. Dominican Republic

73. Guatemala

74. La Rioja, Argentina

75. Chubut, Argentina

76. Tanzania

Fraser senior policy analyst Ashley Stedman, co-author of the report, said the annual survey first conducted in 1997 was the most comprehensive report on government policies that either attract or discourage mining investors. With two of its states finishing in the top 10, Australia is ranked as the second most attractive region in the world for investment (behind Finland), but the Fraser Institute noted the 263 responses it received to the survey indicated all Australian jurisdictions performed worse in 2019 than in the previous year.

Peak national mining body the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies said the caution reflected ongoing concerns around approvals timeframes and regulatory enforcement.

“The Fraser Institute survey is a good reflection of market sentiment, and this is why these rankings are so closely followed within industry,” said CEO Warren Pearce. “Investment attraction is critical to the success of the mineral exploration and mining industry in Australia and is needed to continue to fund mineral exploration programs that will ultimately find future mines.”

The West Australian government has underlined its commitment to making processes easier for business with the timely announcement of a promise to halve the delays for approval of exploration works such as drilling, track clearing and pit digging with mechanised equipment on mining tenements.

Mines minister Bill Johnston said his department was reducing its targeted timeline for assessment of applications for programs of work from 30 to 15 working days. A total of 2,646 applications were lodged in 2019, and Johnston said cutting the timeframes in half could save more than 39,600 processing days each year.

Pearce said the stable regulatory environment in WA had undoubtedly helped the state gain the top ranking. “AMEC is advocating for continuing regulatory reform, and the funding of exploration incentive schemes and co-funded drilling programs to encourage greater mineral exploration and mining in Australia, which will generate significant economic returns for the economy,” he said.

Queensland, the second strongest mining state, lost two places to 15th in the latest survey. The Fraser Institute noted it had been marked down by respondents citing increased uncertainty over disputed land claims, socioeconomic agreements and community development conditions along.

*Article published in the April-June 2020 issue of The Asia Miner

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