Our exploration program is directed at replacing mineral resources as they are depleted by our production, and is key to sustaining our business. We have maintained an active program even during periods of weak uranium prices, which has helped us secure land with exploration and development prospects that are among the best in the world, mainly in Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan and the US. Globally, our land holdings total 1.5 million hectares (3.6 million acres). In northern Saskatchewan alone, we have direct interests in 650,000 hectares (1.6 million acres) of land covering many of the most prospective exploration areas of the Athabasca Basin. Many of our prospects are located close to our existing operations where we have established infrastructure and capacity to expand.
For properties that meet our investment criteria, we may partner with other companies through strategic alliances, equity holdings and traditional joint venture arrangements. Our leadership position and industry expertise in both exploration and corporate social responsibility make us a partner of choice.
In the first quarter, uranium exploration expenses were $10 million, a decrease of $5 million compared to the first quarter of 2016 due to a planned reduction in expenditures.
In 2016, we continued our exploration strategy of focusing on the most prospective projects in our portfolio. Exploration is key to ensuring our long-term growth.
Brownfield exploration is uranium exploration near our existing operations, and includes expenses for advanced exploration on the evaluation of projects where uranium mineralization is being defined.
In 2016, we spent about $10 million on brownfields and projects under evaluation in Saskatchewan and Australia. At Inkai and our US operations we spent $2 million.
We spent about $31 million on regional exploration programs (including support costs), primarily in Saskatchewan and Australia.
Caution about Forward-Looking Information
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