Ryan Samis isn't ready to say mining exploration is out of a dark period, but there's light at the tunnel.
The president of the Canadian Diamond Drilling Association said the prevailing sentiment heading into 2017 is upbeat in comparison with recent years.
"It's kinda like you want to believe that it's finally going to come back this year," said Samis, who works for Geotech Drilling's exploration division manager based in Prince George, B.C.
"At the end of each year clients are looking at budgets and from what I've seen ... j programs are getting bigger, flow-through is getting better, and there is more demand (for drilling services)," said Samis.
Geotech, which sends drill rigs across Canada and around the world, has been involved in three legacy gold programs for several years, he said.
"All three are ramping up to be some of the biggest programs we've done in those years."
The mining industry enjoyed a super cycle between 2003 and 2007, followed by a sharp recession in 2008/09 that hit exploration particularly hard, coupled with declining mineral commodity prices.
Samis said Geotech has remained active on projects financed by a combination of private investors and flow-through funds.
"I think the (financial) market has loosened a bit. People are starting to see gold as something to go back into and the worldwide stockpile of resources has started to go down because mining wasn't there."
His association doesn't keep drill rig utilization rates, but Samis mentions that of his company's 42 drills, between 50 to 60 per cent are in the field.
More than half are engaged in exploration with the rest employed doing geotechnical work for infrastructure projects.
"I'd say, it's similar for the majority of contractors."
The annual junior mining report released last fall by Pricewaterhouse Coopers Canada (PwC) found the exploration industry is gradually moving in the right direction.
PwC reported a rise in the market capitalization of the top junior mining companies on the TSX Venture Exchange by more than 100 per cent compared to 2015.
Global political and economic uncertainty helped the exploration sector by boosting gold prices as much as 22 per cent.
"While the outlook is positive, it's too early to call it a recovery," wrote Liam Fitzgerald, PwC Canada's national mining leader, in the report.
"For the past few years, executives have had to look at different and creative ways to allocate resources and capital. As investors renewed their interest in junior assets,...