SNL Metals & Mining’s latest World Exploration Trends report reveals that in 2014 mining companies responded to poor market conditions with a sharp reduction in exploration activity. The result was a 26% decline in worldwide nonferrous metals exploration budgets during the year, compared to 2013.

In the 25th edition of its Corporate Exploration Strategies (CES) report, SNL calculated that the mining industry’s total budget for nonferrous metals exploration in 2014 was $11.4 billion. This contrasts with the $15.2 billion allocated to exploration in 2013 and the record $21.5 billion budgeted in 2012.

The steep plunge in exploration budgets was due to a combination of investor wariness of the junior sector, which made it difficult for most companies to raise funds, and a strong pullback by producing companies on capital and exploration spending to improve their margins.

SNL’s 2014 exploration estimate was based on information collected from more than 3,500 mining and exploration companies worldwide, of which almost 2,000 had exploration budgets reported in the CES study. These companies, each budgeting at least $100,000, together allocated $10.74 billion for nonferrous exploration, which SNL estimates covers 95% of worldwide commercially oriented nonferrous exploration spending. Adding estimates of budgets that SNL could not obtain, the 2014 worldwide total exploration budget reached $11.36 billion.