Dec 21, 2020

Resources and energy report holds a mixed bag

Resources and energy report holds a mixed bag

The latest Resources and Energy Quarterly forecast holds a mixed bag of results.

Pressure on coal and energy prices is offset by gains in iron ore and gold. That’s likely to be the case for the next few years according to the report.

The forecast is also bullish about base metals.

The outlook for Australia’s resource and energy exports had improved over the past three months said Federal Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt.

The December Resources and Energy Quarterly forecasts resources and energy exports will earn $279 billion for Australia in 2020–21, and $264 billion in 2021–22, up by $22 billion and $12 billion respectively from the September quarter forecast.

That’s down on the 2019-20 result when sector earned a record $291 billion.

The December Resources and Energy Quarterly shows iron ore export earnings are set to reach an all-time high of $123 billion in 2020–21, as strong demand from China and supply problems in Brazil keep prices at high levels.

Australia’s gold exports are on track to set a new record of about $30 billion in 2020–21, making gold Australia’s third largest commodity export behind iron ore and LNG.

The demand for base metals is also expected to rise, as world industrial activity recovers from the pandemic.

Output and consumption are expected to grow for lithium, copper, nickel and zinc, which are all important to supporting renewable energy, electric vehicles and batteries.

Coal exports have been hit by uncertainty surrounding coal exports to China and a COVID-19 induced slowdown in the steel industry, Mr Pitt said.

The value of metallurgical coal exports, used in steel making, is forecast to fall to $22 billion in 2020-21 from $34 billion in 2019-20, before recovering partially to $27 billion in 2021-22.

Earnings from thermal coal exports, used mainly for electricity generation, are forecast to fall from $20 billion in 2019-20 to $15 billion in 2020-21 before rising slightly to $16 billion in 2021-22.

Australian LNG export earnings are forecast to fall from $48 billion in 2019-20 to $31 billion in 2020-21 due to weaker global prices and demand, before a partial recovery to $37 billion in 2021-22.

The figures underlined the resilience of Australia’s resources sector, with record forecasts for iron ore and gold offsetting lower returns for coal and LNG, Mr Pitt said

“The diversity of Australian commodities and the investment in technology and innovation over the past 20 years helped producers and exporters overcome the challenging conditions of the past year and made sure Australia remained a reliable source of resources and energy,” Minister Pitt said. 

“Australia now stands ready to help supply our export partners as they rebound from the global economic downturn caused by COVID-19, with the development and rollout of effective vaccines contributing to global optimism.

“Australia’s success in reaching new markets is an important part of our future success. 

“The Coalition Government remains focused on pursuing new investment in the sector and new export markets, which will boost incomes and jobs in Australia’s towns and regions, and contribute to the prosperity of all Australians.”

The latest Resources and Energy Quarterly is available on the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources website.