Canadian mining companies spent 31 per cent more on exploration in 2017 than the year before, according to PwC’s Mine 2018 report. Exploration investment was at $620 million last year, up from $473 million in 2016.

“There’s just more healthy market speculation,” said Liam Fitzgerald, PwC Canada’s national mining leader. “The market looks similar to circa 2007.”

But Fitzgerald was optimistic that unlike a decade ago, this run of investment would be more sustainable than past cycles, where he said companies overpaid on projects.

“Today, there’s a lot more caution. The rate of approval for big projects is more cautious,” he said. “So I do think we’ve learned some things.”

The report also showed that average revenue rose 23 per cent among global firms, as a pick-up in demand for most metals pushed prices higher. PwC forecasts that this trend will continue into 2018, leading to higher profits for miners.

At the same time, PwC found that capital investments in new projects remained unchanged, although it expects that to rise over the next year.

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Fitzgerald said executives were being careful. “They’re making sure there’s a very clear return on investment,” he said. “I expect that some projects will start to get approved. It’s just [taking longer] because they’re learning from prior mistakes.”

The report found that Canadian companies are investing significant amounts in digitalizing their operations and improving on cybersecurity.

Fitzgerald said cyber threats are growing in importance now that tech is more integrated. “It’s gone from being a more IT problem to being a more holistic business problem,” said Fitzgerald.

PwC also pointed out some potential headwinds. The threat of a trade war from the United States, and changing regulatory regimes, particularly in Africa, are potential barriers to business.

The report also showed that six Canadian miners again made PwC’s list of the top 40 largest global firms by market capitalization, with Potash Corp (which has since merged with Agrium to become Nutrien) being the largest at number 13 on the list, and Barrick at 14.