by Steven Randall
The Great Mining Industry Boom and Bust - Fact or Fiction.
Much has been made of the great mining and resources industry growth over the past 10 - 15 years, and of the supposed " Bust " happening in the last 12 - 24 months as projects come to completion, or are delayed due to the drop in global commodity prices.
As we commence 2016, it is a good time to look at some FACTS about the Australian mining industry, and perhaps adopt a different perspective about the industry that has contributed so much to Australia and it's people.
During the 1960's through to the 1980's, much our our current mineral and gas wealth was initially discovered, but in many cases there was limited markets for the products, or the prevailing prices did not support viable development.
Then in the 1990's a new story emerged - the China story . Although, many parts of the world were involved, China and to a lesser extent India was the great growth story. Between the two countries, numbering over 2.5 billion people, over 400 million people needed to be " Urbanized " , and so the recent massive commodities growth story was born. China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan became the great markets for everything the resource producers could dig or drill for.
But now let's step back a little ...
What do we actually have in Aussi; have we finished digging it up; is there just a few tonnes of stuff left; and have we really busted the business ??
Australia (the land down under) actually holds the worlds largest economic deposits of Iron ore, Lead, Zinc, and Gold. We are also amongst the top six nations with reserves of Ilmenite, Rutile, Zircon, Bauxite,Lithium, Uranium, Silver, Nickel and Black Coal (Ref Geoscience Australia 2012) - and there is much more too.
Just some of the largest mineral fields in the world include the Galillee, Bowen and Hunter basins for coal; The Pilbara iron ore province in West Australia; nation wide goldfields, and a multitude of areas holding copper/ gold silver/lead/zinc and much more.
So from the late 1990's into the 2000's we saw a massive INVESTMENT into new mines and infrastructure, as the developing countries opened up an enormous market for our raw materials.
While accurate figures are not easy to find, some analysts suggest between $60 - $100 Billion has been invested in the Australian Iron Ore industry in the past 20 years, along with much more into the many other base metals and resources. Many hundreds of kilometers of heavy haul rail and road have been built. A multitude of new mines developed and now shipping minerals.
In 2012, we shipped over 800 million tonnes of ore products to market, worth over $105 Billion (Geoscience Australia 2012.), and estimates are that by 2018 we will ship over 900 million tonnes out worth $120 Billion.
Then we come to the most recent development in the search for cleaner power generation - the LNG revolution. Australia has some of the world's largest reserves of Natural Gas, and with a (relatively) stable political climate, is a very attractive long term source of fuel for much of the Asian region.
Starting with Woodside's North west Shelf Venture in the 1980's, and moving right through to the current giant LNG projects of Gorgon / Wheatstone, and the Gladstone LNG giants, some estimate over $250 Billion of today's dollars has been invested into this critical industry. An industry that in 2012 Shipped 25 mmts of LNG worth around $16 billion. By 2018 estimates are we will ship over 80 mmts of LNG worth about $85 Billion to the world markets.
So, where does that leave us in terms of the great Mining Boom / Bust.
Well, we have spent some $3 - $400 Billion on new mines and infrastructure, and so the Building side of the mining business is COMPLETE. Many people have benefited from this huge, generational growth period, but now it's time to calm down, settle down, and PRODUCE the products we built the mines and plants for.
No doubt we will have to adjust to significantly lower ore prices and oil / gas prices for the near to medium future, but under NO Circumstances does this equate to any form of BUST in the resources sector. It really means we are back to more normal lifestyle, and THAT'S what is hard to get used to.
Over the next 10 - 50 years at least, we will export over $200 Billion worth of Gas and Minerals to the world, along with many other products and services, and continue to build Australia, as we have done for many past decades.
It is our hope that this article has provided a little balance and perspective for you regarding this critical industry, and the many articles to follow here in the near future will provide useful information on Australia and it's industries.
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