VICTORIA is still something of a mining secret even as record amounts of money surge in for mineral exploration, a Bendigo-based miner says.
Rex Motton runs start-up gold company Fosterville South from Golden Square, when the pandemic is not forcing workers to stay home.
"I guess the Australian companies are more focused on interstate projects," he speculates.
The chief operating officer is among those watching North American and European money flood in during an investment boom in central and northern Victoria.
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"We think we have a pretty good chance of finding something," Mr Motton says.
Investors both outside and inside Australia spent a combined $184.9 million on the search for Victorian minerals in the year to June, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed.
It was the highest annual expenditure recorded since the ABS began tracking exploration spends in 1988.
Mr Motton says North American companies have been particularly interested in his outfit's work, perhaps because Canadian company Kirkland Lake Gold is hauling huge amounts of gold out of its mine at Fosterville.
It was no coincidence that Mr Motton's company decided to call itself Fosterville South and lists itself on the Toronto Stock Exchange last year.
"Why not? It certainly works," he says.
"We are exploring for Fosterville lookalikes, with the same rock-type and geologies."
That includes in areas literally south of Fosterville's mining tenements.
The company has already completed its first drilling programs near towns like Malmsbury and Lauriston and has wider plans to search on land in a huge triangle stretching from Beechworth south to Walhalla and west to Kyneton.
The state has been neglected by many miners in recent decades, Mr Motton says.
"I mean, in terms of past gold production it is still in the top 10 places in the world but everybody has sort of viewed it as something of the past," he says.
"These gold deposits didn't go away. It's just that no-one thought to look at them very hard."
Miners have a one in 660 chance of making a discovery that leads to a mine but with so much activity in the region the Minerals Council's Victorian director James Sorahan is upbeat about the potential for a major breakthrough.
"We would certainly hope that with the amount of money being put into the ground we would see some good finds," he says.
"Whether that leads to a mine, that will have to be proofed up and that's far more difficult to do. At the very least, these exploration projects increase our knowledge of the geology of central Victoria and that in turn grows the chances of us being able to find new mines in the future."
Mr Sorahan expects the current investment boom to gather pace during the new financial year.
The state government has been working on plans to open up more land east of Bendigo and up to Lockington for exploration.
It is yet to reveal which companies might be selected.
Mr Motton says that people should not be worried that miners would rip up their neighbourhoods in the search for minerals. The impact of exploration is minimal.
The industry is well regulated and companies must apply for multiple different licences over a period of years before they could start a mine, Mr Motton says.
Miners also have to get permission from landowners before they start drilling, and minimise environmental impacts, he says.
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