Miners and investors are poring over satellite images, tracking drilling rigs and quizzing company executives for clues on whether the sector’s heavyweights are close to a new jackpot discovery.
As Rio Tinto Group searches Australia’s Great Sandy Desert for copper and Anglo American Plc scours a 19,000-square kilometer package of land in Brazil, they’re among the mining giants stoking excitement over potential reserves that’ll replenish project pipelines and overturn the industry’s lack of recent success in unearthing deposits.
It’s part of a broader global push across the industry that’s driving a revival in exploration spending on key metals, forecast to top $11 billion after hitting a low of about $9 billion in 2016, according to Melbourne-based MinEx Consulting Ltd.
To keep tabs on progress, investors last month pressed Anglo’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Cutifani for details on his company’s campaign, while others are monitoring traffic shuttling in and out of Rio’s expanding project in the Paterson district in Western Australia, and consulting satellite imagery of the region in an attempt to deduce the scale of the company’s activities.
“We have some very interesting targets, but we never say too much about exploration — I don’t want my peers to know what I’m doing,” Rio’s CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in an interview last week. “Though they are looking very carefully, and using even satellite images to try to see what we’re doing.”
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