Preliminary estimates from Metals Economics Group’s (MEG) Corporate Exploration Strategies (CES) study indicate 2011 nonferrous exploration budgets will exceed $17 billion for expenditures related to precious and base metals, diamonds, uranium, and some industrial minerals. This represents an increase of about 50% from the 2010 total and a new all-time high. Although research is still under way, early analysis indicates Latin America will continue to be the industry’s favorite regional exploration destination in 2011, while Canada will remain the top overall country.

Budgets for grassroots, late-stage and mine site exploration have all increased significantly, but the relative proportions allocated to each stage of development are expected to remain relatively stable compared with 2010. Despite a sharp rise in the amount of money planned for grassroots work in 2011, the proportion of the overall industry exploration effort committed to long-term project generation is anticipated to remain near historically low levels—about a third of 2011’s exploration total compared with an average of about half the annual exploration totals through the 1990s.

Preliminary findings indicate gold is the top exploration target, and will likely account for about half of the global exploration total for the second consecutive year. Second-place copper is expected to account for roughly a fifth of the 2011 nonferrous exploration total.

MEG’s analysis is based on information collected from more than 3,500 companies worldwide, of which about 2,400 are expected to have active exploration programs and will therefore be included in the final study.

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