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An annual Canadian-based global survey of mining companies ranks New Zealand as 26th in its ''policy attractiveness'' for investment, out of 96 regions and countries around the world.
While the Fraser Institute report noted total global exploration spending increased during 2012-13, only 46% of survey respondents planned to increase their exploration budgets this calendar year.
Exploration spending during 2012 was $US6.2 billion ($NZ7.3 billion), up from $US5.4 billion the year before, but it appears likely to take a major hit this calendar year.
The Fraser survey findings align with separate financial statements from the small junior explorers in New Zealand and Australia through to the largest multibillion-dollar companies, which are all making sweeping cuts in the face of declining commodity prices and increasing production costs.
As if to underpin the survey results, mining giant Rio Tinto delivered its third-quarter results earlier this month.
It said it was on track to exceed its targeted $US750 million reduction in spending on exploration and evaluation spending during 2013, having achieved $US729 million in lower exploration and evaluation spending for the nine months to September, compared to the same period during 2012.
The Fraser report said ''Over 90% of respondents `somewhat or fully agreed' that it was currently more difficult to raise funds.
''A majority believes that the reason for this difficulty was investors being worried about the state of the world economy, or being risk averse and seeing mining as risky''.
While the majority expected gold prices to increase in value by 20% over the next two years, more than 50% of respondents expected only small increases, less than 10%, in the value of diamonds, silver, coal, copper, nickel, zinc, potash and platinum.
New Zealand has steadily improved in both its index score for investment attractiveness and ranking during the last five years. In 2012-13, its ranking rose slightly to 26th from 27th. Survey ratings improved most significantly for political stability, the legal system and for the quality of New Zealand's geological database.
On sole ranking based on ''political stability'', New Zealand ranked seventh of the 96 jurisdictions, which were led by New Brunswick, then Saskatchewan, Finland, Botswana, Greenland, the Northern Territory, New Zealand, Victoria, Yukon and Western Australia.
Each region had a sprinkling of anonymous industry comments. A vice-president of a New Zealand producer company, of more than $US50 million revenue, said: ''Risk-based approach to permitting. Easy and local councils have all the regulatory power without having to jump through hoops with different regulators''.
The Fraser Institute is a Canadian-based think-tank, and received survey responses from 742 companies during the three months to January.
The top 10 mining jurisdictions are Finland, Sweden, Alberta, New Brunswick and Wyoming, Ireland, Nevada , the Yukon, and new entrants, Utah and Norway; the latter displacing Quebec and Saskatchewan.
The 10 least attractive jurisdictions for investment, with Indonesia at the bottom, preceded by Vietnam, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kyrgyzstan, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Guatemala the Philippines and Greece.
The ranking for Australia was declined, but it was in an improving trend during the past five years. Western Australia was ranked the highest of the Australian jurisdictions, Victoria improved and Tasmania declined.