Several factors could be behind the fall, including lower thermal coal prices, availability of finance and green tape issues, while the uncertainty provided by super mining tax proposals could have hurt the spend in the latter months of the year.
A Supreme Court ruling in the state back in March also introduced a new set of complications.
The court ruling in favour of two farming families who wanted BHP Billiton rigs off their land within the Caroona Coal project area caused a variety of land access issues that were not resolved until the state’s Mining Act was amended in May.
The highest amount of NSW coal exploration expenditure in the 2009-2010 financial year was $12.1 million in the September quarter, followed by $9.8 million in the December quarter, $9 million in the March quarter and just $8.7 million in the recent June quarter.
Coking coal-rich Queensland was a different story as coal exploration expenditure increased 51% year-on-year to $262.6 million in the 12 months to the end of June.
The June quarter spend reached $81.8 million, 81% higher than the March quarter when coal exploration costs dipped to $45.1 million compared to $69.8 million in the December quarter.
Overall, the total coal exploration expenditure in Australia was about 14% of the total $2.2 billion of exploration investment in Australia in the 2009-2010 financial year.
Iron ore exploration made up 23% of this total, but gold exploration accounted for 26%.