Western Australia's Department of Mines and Petroleum says a drop in the number of applications to explore for minerals is reflective of shaky global market conditions.
The department processed just over 1,000 applications to conduct mining activity or lease land, in the December 2011 quarter.
That is an increase of 21 per cent on the previous quarter.
But, the number of people actually applying to prospect or explore for minerals dropped by almost 200.
The department says there were 472 applications compared to 653 in the previous quarter.
It says WA's high operating costs could also be to blame.
The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies says difficulty securing finance is responsible for the drop in exploration applications.
AMEC's chief executive Simon Bennison says this is partly due to a slowing in investment over the past year, with retail and institutional investors holding on to cash.
"It's very difficult to access equity finance at the moment," he said.
"The market's very tight and I think we're seeing that reflected in some of the data." Mr Bennison says it will take a lift in sentiment to bring investors back to the mining exploration end of the stockmarket.
" I think we're confident it'll pick up," he said.
"It's cyclical like everything else unfortunately in the resource sector and, you know, it's just a matter of time until some confidence comes back into the market place." Click on the following link for our special report on greenfields exploration.