The ongoing Diggers and Dealers conference here addressed issues relating to global gold industry amid increasing demand.

The annual conference in the gold mining mecca of Kalgoorlie is Australia's biggest meeting of miners, prospectors, financiers, brokers and contractors.

A record 2,300 attendees are participating this year with Australia's mining industry front and centre in the nation's economic and political landscape.

The obvious focus of attention remains the proposed new mining tax and the associated political battle.

Foreign ownership of Australia's mines will also be under discussion with China not only the biggest consumer of Australia's mineral resources, but potentially the biggest source of new capital.

Many participants is of the view that global gold industry was falling behind in finding new deposits due to increasingly complex regulations, poorer quality discoveries and rising costs.

The global gold sector produces about 75-million ounces of gold each year, but this was set against a declining trend in new gold discoveries from a peak in the mid-1980's

The amount of gold and by-product gold discovered had fallen to about 100-million ounces in recent years, from a peak of above 300- million ounces 20 years ago.

The junior companies, traditionally regarded as the feeder source of new deposits for major and mid-tier gold producers, received the lion's share of exploration funding, but found fewer ounces than their larger peers, they said.

In the 17 years to 2008, investment in exploration ranged between 2bn and 4bn, with junior explorers receiving 56% of this money.

However, they discovered only an estimated 640-million ounces at an average cost of 42/oz.

Gold is supplied from mature mines as some prospects discovered two decades ago are still being studied to determine if it is economically viable to extract them.

New discoveries over the past 20 years have been made in countries posing moderate to high risk for mining projects.