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In the first half of 2021, Australia's cannabis industry was defined by gradual progress from its stakeholders.

Australia's cannabis space has been moving forward, and progress continued in the first half of 2021.

The country has seen the growth of domestic players, as well as critical changes to the rules surrounding CBD. But at the same time, there are still serious challenges present in the industry.

In this update, the Investing News Network (INN) takes a closer look at the Australian cannabis market in the first part of the year.

Australia cannabis update: Domestic market makes progress

Australia's cannabis industry is defined by its domestic medical market and the international opportunities available for companies in the country. When it comes to the country itself, the sector has grown off the back of increasing patient numbers.

In its 2021 half-year update, data firm FreshLeaf Analytics said the country was home to 45,000 active patients, with that number expected to reach 75,000 by the end of the year.

"The Australian medicinal cannabis market continues its strong growth trajectory," Cassandra Hunt, managing director of FreshLeaf Analytics, said in a statement, according to a report from MJBizDaily.

The document indicates that 2021 is set to bring "evolution in the regulatory landscape," alongside further focus on product quality. The researchers also expect to see additional investment in research and development, as well as "further industry consolidation."

There's been rapid growth in the number of products available to patients and in revenue for the industry, according to the Australian researchers.

"Year-to-date sales in 2021 have already surpassed full year revenues in 2019," the report states.

New research also shows the potential for more consumers to appear if cannabis were to be fully legalised.

Research from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and UNSW Sydney indicates that 4 percent of Australians would try the drug if it was legalised.

Australia cannabis update: CBD rule changes provide key progress

Changes confirmed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration at the end of 2020 came into effect in 2021 as Australia moved forward with allowing the sale of low-dose CBD products over the counter.

The new rules, which went into effect in February of this year, signalled an evolution in the methodology and evaluation of cannabis in the country.

"I think what it does is gives the industry and products additional credibility — it builds a level of trust with patients in the market," Stephen Murphy, co-founder of Prohibition Partners, previously told INN.

However, there are still stringent guidelines for how consumers can access these products. The other current challenge is the arduous process for getting CBD products approved.

That means this victory for the market won't factor into the industry's financial results this year. Indeed, in its half-year report, FreshLeaf Analytics indicates that it did not count CBD products in its 2021 calculation.

"It should be noted that these forecasts exclude Schedule 3 low-dose CBD products given that it is unlikely products will be available in 2021," the firm explains.

The researchers did provide an expectation for these products — they expect to see "pharmacist-only CBD" reach AU$250 million in value at its peak thanks to 2 million consumers.

"Speed to market will be a critical competitive advantage for those looking to tap into this new and lucrative market," the report from FreshLeaf Analytics notes.

Australia cannabis update: Ongoing challenges in the industry

Jo Patterson, CEO of BOD Australia (ASX:BDA), told Business Insider Australia that regulators in the country are directly responsible for the delays holding back the industry.

"There's limited opportunities here in Australia, because of the regulatory restrictions and mandates," Patterson said to the news outlet.

Dr. Ben Jansen, a clinical director and founder of cannabis provider and consultancy CDA Clinics, told Business Insider Australia the industry is just now emerging.

"We're now moving to a point where there are less barriers for people to access cannabis products and CBD products in Australia," Jansen said.

The struggles are also affecting patients. According to a report from the Australian Associated Press, the Chronic Pain Australia group has found doctors tend to shy away from recommending cannabis medicine.

A survey of 2,233 Australians shows that despite questions and interest from patients, general practitioners struggle to provide cannabis solutions.

A medical expert noted that Australian doctors today may not feel comfortable talking about and recommending cannabis to patients if they didn't learn about it in school.

"Education around the therapeutic activity of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system should be embedded in the medical curriculum and not just offered as a postgraduate choice," Justin Sinclair, a naturopath from Western Sydney University's NICM Health Research Institute, said.

Australia cannabis update: Investor takeaway

Expectations for the Australian cannabis market continue to bubble up as significant changes take place.

In its half-year report, the team at FreshLeaf said:

These shifts are beginning to take shape: multiple regulatory changes are underway impacting patient access and product quality, there has been a flurry of M&A activity, and some industry players have altered their focus in the value chain as the market begins to move away from vertical integration.

Investment interest in Australian cannabis will continue to oscillate depending on results seen in the market, but halfway through 2021 it's clear it has been one of the industry's most important years so far.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

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The wave of initial public offerings that swept Australia’s tech industry in late 2020 is expected to continue well into 2021. The Australian Financial Review reported that a number of Australian tech companies are on the path towards a “likely listing” for 2021.

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Our FREE outlook report on the Australian tech market is new for 2021! This INNvestor Report is sure to offer you beneficial and informative data on this exciting market so you’re ready to invest.

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There are many big Australian gold stocks, but these are the five top companies in the sector by market cap.

Australia is the fourth largest producer of gold worldwide, and this past year has brought ups and downs for the commodity. The precious metal hit its 2021 high point early on and fell soon after.

Lately, gold has been resting at a strong price of around US$1,800 per ounce, and it seems like it will exit the year that way. It may even be in for a serious price hike if inflationary pressures continue on their current trajectory.

Read on to learn more about Australia’s five top gold companies by market cap. All market cap and share price information was obtained on November 25, 2021, using TradingView's stock screener.

1. Newcrest Mining

Market cap: AU$19.54 billion; current share price: AU$24.14

Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) operates a portfolio of gold mines across Australia, Canada and Papua New Guinea. These include its New South Wales-based Cadia mine and its Western Australia-based Telfer and Havieron mines.

In November 2021, Newcrest agreed to purchase British Columbia-based Pretium Resources (TSX:PVG,NYSE:PVG) for C$3.5 billion, marking the company’s expansion into Western Canada.

2. Kirkland Lake Gold

Market cap: AU$14.57 billion; current share price: AU$54.99

Kirkland Lake Gold (ASX:KLA) has mining operations in Australia and Canada, both of which are low-risk, gold-rich countries. The company’s Fosterville mine is based in Victoria, Australia, and as of December 31, 2018, its mineral reserves stood at 2.7 million ounces. It produced 640,467 ounces in 2020.

In September 2021, Kirkland Lake Gold and Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX:AEM,NYSE:AEM), a Canadian gold miner, announced a “merger of equals." The new company will go by the name Agnico Eagle Mines, and the companies expect the transaction to close in late 2021 or early 2022.

3. AngloGold Ashanti

Market cap: AU$12.43 billion; current share price: AU$5.83

AngloGold Ashanti (ASX:AGG) is a global gold miner formed in 2004. It has two Australia-based operations, both of which are based in Western Australia’s northeastern goldfields: Sunrise Dam and Tropicana. Sunrise Dam is 100 percent owned, while Tropicana is 70 percent owned, with the remaining 30 percent owned by Regis Resources (ASX:RRL,OTC Pink:RGRNF). In 2020, these operations produced 554,000 ounces of gold.

In Q3 2021, AngloGold Ashanti reported total gold production of 613,000 ounces at a total cash cost of US$927 per ounce. This represents a 5 percent quarter-over-quarter increase in production, though a year-to-date decrease.

4. Northern Star Resources

Market cap: AU$11.39 billion; current share price: AU$9.66

Northern Star Resources (ASX:NST) is an Australian gold-mining company with projects throughout Western Australia and North America at its Kalgoorlie, Yandal and Pogo production centres. In the 2021 fiscal year, Northern Star experienced a 40 percent revenue increase and a 10 percent cash earnings hike.

In late November 2021, Northern Star announced an agreement to buy Newmont Australia’s power business for US$95 million. The company paid US$25 million for the option to purchase this business, an opportunity it was given through its recent 50 percent acquisition of Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines.

5. Evolution Mining

Market cap: AU$7.53 billion; current share price: AU$4.12

Australian gold miner Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) has projects throughout New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, as well as in Ontario, Canada. Evolution Mining produced 680,788 ounces of gold in the 2021 fiscal year at an all-in sustaining cost of AU$1,215 per ounce.

In 2019, Evolution Mining became one of only two Australian gold companies to be included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (INDEXDJX:W1SGI). In 2020 and 2021, the company made several strategic acquisitions and divestments, including its high-value purchases of the Red Lake and the Kundana operations.

This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2018.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Isabel Armiento, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

What are the largest Australian copper companies? These five ASX copper stocks are the biggest on the exchange by market cap.

Last year, pandemic restrictions forced copper mines to shut down across the world, driving down global production and causing the 10 largest copper-mining companies to suffer dramatic losses.

But in 2021, copper hit an all-time high of US$10,700 per tonne, and stayed over US$9,000 for much of the year.

The three top copper-producing countries globally are Chile, Peru and China, with Australia coming in at number six. Still, there are plenty of untapped resources in the land down under, and Australia is making a name for itself as an up-and-coming producer of this important base metal.

Read on to learn more about the top five Australian copper companies on the ASX, ranked by market cap. All market cap and share price information was obtained on November 26, 2021, from TradingView.

1. BHP

Market cap: AU$192.56 billion; current share price: AU$38.03

BHP (ASX:BHP) is a top global producer of copper, nickel, potash, iron ore and metallurgical coal, with copper production centralised at its South Australia-based Olympic Dam mine.

The company, whose headquarters are in Melbourne, Australia, emphasises copper’s function in renewable energy systems and the metal’s critical role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Recently, BHP has focused its attention on its energy assets. In late November, the company merged its oil and gas portfolio with Woodside Petroleum, a deal that was originally struck in August of the same year. On the mineral side of its operations, BHP was looking to acquire Noront Resources (TSXV:NOT,OTC Pink:NOSOF), a Canada-based nickel, copper, chrome and platinum company, but decided not to match a superior offer.

2. OZ Minerals 

Market cap: AU$8.77 billion; current share price: AU$25.70

OZ Minerals (ASX:OZL) is a South Australia-based copper-mining company founded in 2008. Its operations include the Carrapateena project, where construction was completed in 2019, and the upcoming Malu underground mine, which was commissioned in 2015.

In a November press release, OZ Minerals reported a year-to-date 5 percent increase in group ore reserve copper metal tonnes. In its third quarter results, the company reported guidance of between 120,000 and 145,000 tonnes of copper for the year.

3. Sandfire Resources

Market cap: AU$2.59 billion; current share price: AU$6.11

Sandfire Resources (ASX:SFR) owns 7,189 square kilometres in the Bryah Basin region of Western Australia, including its DeGrussa and Monty operations. Both of these are 100 percent owned and produce copper and gold.

The company released its third quarter results in October, reporting total copper production of 15,946 tonnes. Sandfire expects output of between 64,000 and 68,000 tonnes of copper in 2022.

4. 29Metals

Market cap: AU$1.29 billion; current share price: AU$2.63

Australia-based mining company 29Metals (ASX:29M) has the Golden Grove mine in Western Australia and the Capricorn copper mine in Queensland, along with several promising new growth opportunities lined up. 29Metals focuses on copper production, though it also mines for zinc, gold and silver.

According to an October release from the company, production was weaker than expected at Golden Grove during the September quarter. However, the asset's quarter-on-quarter decline of about 10 percent was largely offset by a strong performance at Capricorn.

5. Copper Mountain Mining

Market cap: AU$804.96 million; current share price: AU$3.81

Copper Mountain Mining (ASX:C6C) is a Canadian and Australian copper miner, with its flagship Copper Mountain operation in British Columbia, Canada, and its Eva and Cameron copper projects in Queensland, Australia.

In the third quarter, Copper Mountain Mining reported total output of 22.4 million pounds of copper at its Copper Mountain mine, representing a 12.1 percent quarter-over-quarter decline in production. The company still reported positive cash flow, with strong construction and exploration gains made at its Eva and Cameron projects.

This is an updated version of an article first published by the Investing News Network in 2018.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Isabel Armiento, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.