Asia tar­geted as an ex­plo­ration hot spot

Townsville Bulletin - - Business -

AS the world’s min­ers pre­pare for an­other year of tight com­mod­ity sup­plies, more eyes are turn­ing to de­vel­op­ing Asian na­tions to pro­vide ex­plo­ration op­por­tu­ni­ties, as well as an ap­petite for con­sump­tion.

As coun­tries through­out the re­gion open up to for­eign in­vest­ment and reg­u­late their min­ing sec­tors, ex­plo­ration is ex­pand­ing and new ge­o­graphic hot spots are emerg­ing.

Asia ex­ec­u­tive gen­eral man­ager for Melbourne-based miner Ox­i­ana Ltd Peter Al­bert says re­cent dis­cov­er­ies have been driven by de­vel­op­ment in places like Laos, Thai­land, Cam­bo­dia and China.

‘‘This is largely due to the re­cent open­ing up of th­ese coun­tries to for­eign in­vest­ment and also be­cause west­ern com­pa­nies with ad­vanced ex­plo­ration tech­niques are in­creas­ingly mov­ing into th­ese coun­tries as the tra­di­tional min­ing cen­tres are re­veal­ing fewer and fewer de­posits,’’ he said. ‘‘This re­gion will con­tinue to be a fo­cus for us and will no doubt at­tract more com­pa­nies as well.’’

Many ob­servers view Ox­i­ana as the per­fect ex­am­ple of what can be achieved in a de­vel­op­ing Asian na­tion, de­spite the po­lit­i­cal, cul­tural and lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges.

Ox­i­ana took over Rio Tinto’s Se­pon mine in Laos in 2000. In 2005, the mine pro­duced 200,370 ounces of gold and 30,480 tonnes of cop­per, and stud­ies are un­der way to sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand both gold and cop­per pro­duc­tion by 2009.

Mean­while, the miner’s share price has grown from just over $1 at the end of 2003 to over $3 to­day, with a mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of more than $4 bil­lion.

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