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Australia's resource boom on last leg?

Aug. 27, 2012 at 8:43 AM   |   Comments

MELBOURNE, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Australia's mining boom is far from over, a government official said.

"The truth of the matter is, according to private forecasters, we're not even halfway through the mining investment boom, let alone the production boom," Federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"We've got a lot of projects still to be formally commenced but the investment is pouring into them and a hell of a lot of projects in the investment pipeline."

His comments came in response to Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson's assessment that the country's mining boom had run its course, sparked by mining giant BHP Billiton's announcement last week that it was shelving its $30 billion expansion of the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine project in South Australia.

BHP has attributed its decision to current market conditions, including subdued commodity prices and higher capital costs.

"You've got to understand, the resources boom is over," Ferguson told ABC.

Noting that the $270 billion in investment in Australia's mining sector was "the envy of the world," Ferguson said it "has got tougher" in the last six to 12 months.

As a result of the country's resources boom, Australia has achieved a record 21 years without recession.

Australia's top central banker said Australia's resources investment boom still has several years of steam.

In a report presented Friday, Reserve Bank of Australia Gov. Glenn Stevens told the House of Representatives Economics Committee that the peak of the boom, in terms of the share of gross domestic product, would occur within the next two years.

"After that, the rate of resource investment is likely to decline, while the export shipments of the resources themselves will pick up," Stevens said.

An editorial in The Australian newspaper Friday concluded, "If it has not arrived already, Australia's post-mining boom day of reckoning is approaching."

PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia's lead partner in energy, Jock O'Callaghan said that the downturn in prices is affecting mining companies around the globe, not just in Australia.

Still, O'Callaghan said the cost of doing business in Australia is too high and warned that "if things don't change, such that the confidence is there to proceed" with planned mining projects, then resource-rich areas such as Africa with lower operational costs would be viewed as preferred sites for global miners.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said Monday that he will have a roundtable discussion within the next few weeks with mining company representatives to hear how they've been affected by BHP's decision to scrap its Olympic Dam expansion, including companies that had made investment decisions on the basis of that expansion.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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