MINERAL exploration expenditure for the past five years from 2007-2011 totalled more than $83.57million while quarries including quarried rock, gravel and sand averaged $5m over the past five years.
And given the high mineral commodity prices globally and the increasing activity in the mineral sector, Mineral Resources Department director Malakai Finau said there was room for improvement in the local mining industry. He said the mineral exploration expenditure for the five years to 2011 did not include the production figures for gold.
With two mine productions at Vatukoula and Nawailevu, he said two other mines were yet to come on line.
"There are also about 50 exploration licences that are current at the moment.
"The mining sector has contributed its fair share to the economy for the past 50 years or so, using Vatukoula as a case in point where mining (gold and silver) has been produced for more than half a decade," Mr Finau said.
"Mineral exploration which is the search and investigation for minerals had commenced well before the commencement of mining.
"For gold production, ever since the re-commencement of mining operations in Vatukoula since the temporary closure in 2006, gold and silver production had increased steadily from an export value of $26.722m to more than $100m in 2011 and 2012 — this is looking at the figures for the past five years."
Despite a disappointing Gross Domestic Product contribution over two decades, Mr Finau said the trend had been decreasing from a peak of approximately 3.4 per cent in 1989 to a low of about 0.3 per cent in 2008.
"This had since improved to approximately 1 per cent mark where it had hovered for the years 2010 to 2011.
"This seems to reflect the boom in the gold prices from 2008," he said.