LONDON, Aug 23 (Reuters) – Big miners such as Rio Tinto can slash exploration spending and still make valuable finds but they must resist the temptation to stop searching entirely or they will pay later, the company’s head of exploration said.
The secret of successful exploration on a budget, according to Rio’s Stephen McIntosh, is prioritisation and planning. “If something is not making it, we will get out quickly or divest that opportunity, so we can reinvest into something that will be of value to Rio Tinto,” McIntosh said.
Total withdrawal from exploration – attractive as it has no impact on current production – could hit earnings in decades to come especially at a time when smaller explorers and miners cannot raise cash to fill the gap left by big players.
“If you stop your most fundamental greenfield exploration, for the majors you won’t miss it for a very long time. But you will wake up one day, want to the go to the cupboard of future options and find it a little bit bare,” McIntosh said in a telephone interview from Singapore. Cutting exploration, has proved an easy win for miners under pressure, as prices and demand cool, to reduce costs that ballooned during the boom years.