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Rumours of the Resource Industry's Dealth have been Greatly Exaggerated

Friday, October 11, 2013

By Terry Ryder
Thursday, 03 October 2013

Companies beavering away in the resources industry must know how Mark Twain (who was declared dead by newspapers when he was very much alive) felt when he reportedly said, “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”  

They must wonder if they have slipped into a parallel universe when the industry they’re working in has been declared dead and buried.  

This is a relevant issue for property investors because of the link between resources activity, jobs creation and consequent demand for real estate in mining towns, regional centres and capital cities.  

There is a fundamental mis-reading of the signals coming out of the resources sector, by so-called analysts and by media.  

Cost-cutting is seen as evidence that the sector is dying. A decline in prices for some commodities, such as coal, is interpreted as death of the industry rather than simply another stage in the volatile resources cycle. A few negative reports out of China are translated into “the resources boom is over because China is slowing down."  

This comment by Rob Neale, CEO of coal miner New Hope, is pertinent: "The international thermal coal market is oversupplied and the industry is suffering to varying extents. We have been in the business for a long time and we have withstood many of these cycles and I would expect to continue to do so."

So is this one from Michael Roche, CEO of the Queensland Resources Council: “The latest export data suggests that Bowen Basin coal producers are responding skilfully to global market realities by reducing costs and increasing volumes to reinforce Queensland's position as a supplier of choice to Asia.”

And this one from Scott Barklamb, executive director of the Australian Mines and Metals Association: “The industry has never accepted a simplistic ‘boom versus bust’ view of the economy.”

And, finally, this comment from Origin chief executive Grant King: “It's not over. Most of the capital still has to be spent in order to deliver these big projects."

So, here are my top 15 reasons why the resources boom is far from over.  

1). The economies that are driving the Australian resources revolution, such as India and China, continue to grow at phenomenal rates. The so-called “slowdown in China” is a myth. The Asian Century is just beginning.  

2). Resources projects currently under construction total $268 billion. That’s $268,000,000,000.  

3). The change of federal government means some unwelcome (to the mining industry) taxes will be eliminated. The new government says it will “re-boot” the mining boom by taking measures to reduce costs. It says there are over 50 major mining and port projects awaiting approval.  

4). BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are exporting record levels of iron ore and continue to expand. Rio, for example, is expanding its port, rail and mine operations in the Pilbara to lift output to 290 million tonnes per year. Other iron ore miners, like Fortescue Metals and BC Iron, are delivering record production. Demand for cape-size vessels to service Australian iron ore exports has tripled since June.  

5). BHP says the resources boom will extend at least another 15 years. Chairman Jac Nasser says: “We maintain a positive outlook over the long term as the fundamentals of wealth creation, demographics and urbanisation continue to create demand for commodities across Asia and other markets.”

6). Australia is on target to become, within the next five years or so, the world’s biggest exporter of LNG.  

7). The three mega gas projects focused on Gladstone are about halfway through their construction phase while a fourth (the $15 billion Arrow Energy gas project) has recently been approved.  Contractor for all three projects, Bechtel, is hiring at least 100 workers every week - the expected workforce peak is 10,500, which is expected to continue until mid-2014.  

8). Other major resources-related projects in Gladstone include the Fisherman's Landing, Boulder Steel, Gladstone Gas Power Station and the Yarwun Refinery projects. To service these, another workers' camp development application (for 516 rooms) is before Gladstone Regional Council.  

9). Big contracts continue to be awarded in the Surat Basin coal seam gas industry, such as the $1.8 billion contact recently handed to Thiess by QGC.

10). Woodside is proceeding with its $40 billion Browse LNG project WA, contrary to media reports of its death, with its Japanese and Chinese partners agreeing to a floating offshore processing facility. The project is being strongly backed by new federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane.  

11). The $9 billion Roy Hill iron ore project in WA has been handing out major contracts, including a $620 million rail works contract to NRW Holdings, a $420 million contract to BGC Contracting and a $1.47 billion contract to Forge Group (for a processing facility). The $7.7 billion West Pilbara Iron Ore project is being planned by Aquila Resources and partner AMCI Investments. Fortescue Metals Group is going ahead with its $3 billion Iron Bridge magnetite project and has announced a $1.25 billion development deal with Formosa Plastic group of Taiwan.  

10). South Australia has announced a $5 billion infrastructure corridor to cater to a projected eight-fold rise in iron ore exports from the state. The Eyre Peninsula has multiple iron ore projects under way or in planning.  

11). The Queensland Resources Council says that the Queensland coal industry is positioning itself for “the inevitable revival of coal demand, driven by China and India”.

12). Multiple coal mining projects, each of them a multi-billion-dollar venture, are gearing for a construction start in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, with proactive support from the state government. They represent investment totalling well over $20 billion.  

13). An economic needs analysis has identified 17 coalmining projects in varying stages of development in the Central Highlands near Emerald. It estimated a mining workforce in the Emerald area rising from 800 in 2012 to 4,150 in 2022. A 600-person FIFO accommodation village is planned. BHP recently officially opened its Dania coking coal mine near Moranbah in Queensland, its seventh Bowen Basin mine in its partnership with Mitsubishi.  

14). Port Waratah Coal Services has just completed a $1.5 billion expansion of its export facilities at the Port of Newcastle, lifting capacity to 145 million tonnes per year. Newcastle continues to be the world’s biggest coal export port.  

15). In addition in Newcastle, major new export port development are happening around Australia. The multi-billon-dollar Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal project is under way at Gladstone. Stage one construction of WICET is about 65% complete, with coal operations to begin in 2015. Work is under way on Rio Tinto’s Cape Lambert Port B project in WA - it recently handed a $235 million construction contract to Monadelphous Group.

That is a very short list of some of the action underpinning my conviction that the resources revolution in Australia will be thriving – and driving real estate demand around the nation – long after I’m as dead as Mark Twain was thought to be.


Terry Ryder is the founder of hotspotting.com.au and you can contact Terry via email or on Twitter.

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