This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Mining has long been a cornerstone of the Australian economy. The gold rushes in 1850s were pivotal in the early development of the country. Today, it remains one of the country’s most well-established sectors. It is a major contributor to Australia’s economy, accounting for around 10% of total GDP in 2020. The industry is strongly export-oriented, with minimal processing onshore. The outlook for Australia’s mineral exports continues to improve, as the world economy rebounds from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
The Australian government will expand Australia’s mining science technology capability, create jobs, and ensure a greater share of raw materials are processed in Australia, through Labor’s $1 billion Value-Adding in Resources Fund.
Australia is the world’s largest producer of lithium and a global top five producer of gold, iron ore, lead, zinc, and nickel. It also has the world’s largest uranium and fourth largest black coal resources, respectively. As the fourth largest mining country in the world (after China, the United States, and Russia), Australia will have ongoing demand for high-tech mining equipment, representing potential opportunities for U.S. suppliers.
There are over 350 operating mine sites across the country, of which approximately one-third are located in Western Australia (WA), one-quarter in Queensland (QLD) and one-fifth in New South Wales (NSW), making them the three major mining states. By volume, Australia’s two most important mineral commodities are iron ore (29 mines) – of which 97% is mined in WA – and coal (over 90 mines), which is largely mined on the east coast, in the states of QLD and NSW. In contrast to most global production, the majority (around 75%) of black coal in Australia is produced from open-cut mines. This ratio of 3:1 open-cut/surface to underground mines also applies to the broader (i.e., non-coal) local mining sector.
The United States is one of the largest exporters of mining equipment to Australia, with Japan, China, and Germany being other important sources of imported equipment. Major players such as Caterpillar, Komatsu, Wirtgen, Joy Global, and Liebherr have a strong presence in the market. Smaller-scale local manufacturers cater to niche and specialized markets and are particularly competitive in mining-related software, fine coal cleaning and process control, and strata reinforcement technology.
Underpinning the growth of the mining industry in Australia is a strong demand for Australia to be a reliable and stable supplier of resources to the United States and the world. Australia and the United States have strengthened bilateral cooperation to improve the reliability and diversity of global critical minerals supplies. Australia’s abundant reserves of critical minerals such as antimony, manganese, and rare earths are crucial to communications, renewable energy, and defense industries. In 2019, the United States and Australia formalized their partnership on developing both nations’ critical minerals assets between Geoscience Australia and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The two partners outlined specific steps to strengthen an existing Memorandum of Understanding by collaborating on research and increasing critical minerals capacity for both countries. There also is an opportunity for Australian mining projects to be funded by the US Government to help support and maintain the security of supply chains.
Applications to improve efficiency of maintenance and service of mines
One of the key opportunity areas for U.S. exporters in the Australian mining industry is maintenance and service. Mining companies remain strongly focused on reducing operating costs, so products and services that enhance or extend existing infrastructure, and improve the bottom line, are likely to be well-received. Heavy construction equipment and drilling equipment are also leading sub-sectors.
Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies
With the growing demand to lower carbon emissions in the Mining Industry, there is a growing demand for technologies that will limit greenhouse gas emissions by otherwise polluting industries. In 2022, the Western Australian Government announced funding for a new bill to allow carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) to be further deployed in Western Australia (WA). The Australian government, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and UN’s lead agency for assessing climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say the technology will be critical to meeting net zero emissions targets to slow the trajectory of global warming.
Blue Hydrogen processing technologies
There’s a strong drive to decarbonize mining operations. Hydrogen can be used to store renewable energy to generate electricity, it can power equipment, trucks, and cars, and it can even be used in certain mining processes as a reductant.
With the high cost of labor in Australia, there is strong interest in automation technology such as driverless vehicles (trucks and trains), drills, and excavation equipment. This interest is strongest in the iron ore sector, where the large scale of mine operations justifies the investment in automation. The Australian mining industry is, in many areas, an early adopter of technologies, such as mobile and wearable technologies. There are also moves to convert particular types of heavy moving equipment, e.g., underground loaders, to non-diesel power, for both environmental and occupational health and safety.
The mining sector is set to be an early adopter of blue hydrogen production. In March 2020, four mining giants - BHP, Fortescue, Anglo American and Hatch – formed the Green Hydrogen Consortium, pledging to work together to accelerate renewable energy-powered hydrogen production and its application to the resources sector and other heavy industries. According to the Director of the CSIRO Hydrogen Energy Future Science Platform Dr Daniel Roberts, “There are a whole range of opportunities for hydrogen in the mining sector.”
AIMEX – Australasian International Mining Exhibition which is held biennially in Sydney (NSW), next taking place in 2023.
QME – Queensland Mining which is held biennially in Mackay (QLD), next taking place July 19-21, 2023.
- Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM)
- Australasian Tunnelling Society (ATS)
- Australian Drilling Industry Association (ADIA)
- Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG)
- Geoscience Australia
- Minerals Council of Australia (MCA)
- Mining & Energy Services Council of Australia (MESCA)
- Office of the Chief Economist (produces the Resources and Energy Quarterly publication)