S&P Global Market Intelligence reports a 21% decline in worldwide nonferrous metals exploration. The latest World Exploration Trends (WET) report showed a fourth consecutive year of falling exploration. It is based on S&P Global Market Intelligence’s 27th Corporate Exploration Strategies (CES) study, which calculated that the mining industry’s total budget for nonferrous metals exploration was just $7.2 billion in 2016, compared with the record $21.5 billion budgeted in 2012. Despite the steep plunge in annual exploration budgets, the past three quarters have brought signs of optimism for a long-struggling industry. Since last March, exploration companies have increasingly been able to raise funds and restart focused programs. The steep plunge in exploration budgets can be attributed to investor wariness of exploration and a significant reduction in spending by producing companies as they sought to improve profit margins.The exploration estimate for 2016 is based on information collected from more than 2,000 mining and exploration companies worldwide, of which almost 1,600 had exploration budgets of at least $100,000. These reported budgets amounted to $6.89 billion, with a further US$310 million estimated to have been budgeted by companies for which data was unavailable.Additional findings from the report:Canada was the most popular national target, accounting for 14% of the global totalOntario accounted for 23% of the overall Canadian exploration budget, followed by Quebec with 18%Despite a 19% fall in its dollar allocation, gold still accounted for 50% of the Canadian budget. Planned spending for base metals was down more than 33% from 2015, lowering its share of Canada’s total budget to 14% from 17%Globally, gold remained the top-explored commodity last year, with the yellow metal accounting for 48% of the global exploration budget, matching the record high of 2011In dollar terms, gold exploration declined to its lowest level since 2006, dropping $643 million, or over 16%, to $3.30 billion.