LOCAL junior explorers have received some financial respite after $7.2 million was distributed to 61 drilling and prospecting projects in WA.
The State Government’s cash injection was part of the latest round of grants under the Exploration Incentive Scheme (EIS) aimed at supporting juniors struggling for investment.
The program provides funding for up to 50 per cent of direct drilling costs, capped at $150,000 for a multi-hole project; up to $400,000 for a single deep hole, depending on the mineral; and $30,000 for prospecting projects.
WA Mines and Petroleum minister Bill Marmion said the program would financially assist smaller companies and subsequent exploration would add to the geological
knowledge of the state.
“The co-funded drilling program provides incentives to drill in underexplored areas to ensure the continued economic prosperity of the state’s resources industry, particularly in the current financial environment,” he said.
“The scheme has already reaped significant rewards with its contribution to the discovery of the Nova deposit with a co-funding grant to Sirius Resources, as well as providing co-funding to commercially promising and scientifically interesting projects, such as deep drilling which led to the re-opening of the Mt Magnet gold mine.” Between 2008 and 2014, the government will provide a total of $100.6 million in funding for the scheme which is part of the Royalties for Regions program.
Regional Development minister Brendan Grylls said the subsidies would stimulate commercial partnerships. “Investment through the EIS contributes to new mineral and energy discoveries –  which underpins economic and community
development in regional WA,” Mr Grylls said.
The future of the program is uncertain beyond 2015 as it was negotiated by Mr Grylls in 2008 when he held the balance of power in Parliament.
When the Nationals formed a government with the Liberals, it was under the proviso that 25 per cent of mining royalties went into a fund. The fund accumulated $1 billion per year and was controlled by the Nationals, with money distributed among regional programs.
With the Barnett Government winning a landslide victory in last year’s state election, the money is no longer guaranteed.