S&P Global Market Intelligence's mining and metals research team's Alex de Leon said the total exploration budget for the region rose 20% year-on-year in 2017 to US$2.38 billion, with its share of the global budget up from 28.5% in 2016.
In the December quarter, financing for the region climbed to $1 billion, up from $426 million in the September quarter.
According to Mining Journal's World Risk Report 2017, South and Central America have a combined average investment risk index rating of 62.5/100, with Chile, Peru and Mexico all receiving ‘A' ratings with an index of over 70/100.
De Leon also named these countries as the top three in the region, with them claiming 25%, 22% and 21%, respectively, of the region's overall exploration budget, and 68% collectively.
This is not surprising, as copper generated the highest total production revenue of $53.6 billion for Latin America, according to S&P, and these three countries account for most of the region's copper reserves.
Iron ore and gold also generated high total production revenues for the region at $32.5 billion and $19.3 billion, respectively.
Capital investment for the year was mainly focused in the copper arena where announcement funding totalled over $9 billion, followed by lithium and then gold, which were both over $3 billion, de Leon said.
In Chile alone, a total of $5.5 billion is planned to be spent on two copper projects — NGEx Resources' (CN:NGQ) $3.1 billion investment on the Constellation project and BHP's (LN:BLT) $2.5 billion investment to extend the Spence mine's life to more than 50 years.
During 2017, most drilling was carried out during the March and December quarters, with drill holes totalling 1,853 and 1,972, respectively.
S&P said gold had been the most targeted commodity in terms of the number of holes with significant drill intervals, with silver and copper following closely.