Aus mines have insurance against lower prices

2012-03-21 14:34

Sydney - Increased shipments of coal, iron ore and gas would more than make up for any fall in their value, Australian officials said on Wednesday.

The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics predicted mineral and energy exports would be worth Aus $225bn in 2016, compared with Aus $190bn last year.

The star performer would be liquefied natural gas with its export volumes tripling to 60 million tonnes in 2016 and earnings also rising threefold to Aus $30bn, said Quentin Grafton, the bureau's executive director.

Grafton said iron ore exports would rise 62% in volume over the period, steelmaking coal by 47%, power station coal by 65%, copper by 77% and alumina by 29%.

Most analysts predicted a softening of commodity prices as world demand slackens, but few expected a steep fall.

Steelmaking coal has risen sixfold in value since 2003, while iron ore has risen from about Aus $15 a tonne in 2003 to around Aus $140/tonne at present.

The commodities boom, supercharged by demand from China, has delivered Australia the best terms of trade in 150 years. The terms of trade express the value of exports against the cost of imports.

This week Prime Minister Julia Gillard pointed to Aus $400bn of investment in commodities in the pipeline and "very, very strong terms of trade and very high commodity prices" stretching into the future.

"I, as prime minister, routinely go to projects that are worth 20 (billion), 30 (billion), 40 billion (Australian dollars) and when you're standing at one of them, there are dozens of others either being built or on the drawing board," she said.

Spending on new projects this year is estimated at Aus $40bn.