An overview of the latest key information on the performance of the State's resources industry.
The series of resources data files published by the department have been revamped in terms of format and the depth of information they provide. Please contact statistics if you would like to make any comments on the resource data files.
Resources data files
Mineral and petroleum review 2020
Western Australia and its resources sector successfully navigated the global pandemic to deliver mineral and petroleum sales valued at a record $174 billion in 2020.
This eclipses the previous single calendar year or financial year record of $173 billion set in 2019-20.
This result was principally driven by:
- Iron ore sales valued at a record $116 billion on the back of record sales volumes and the highest iron ore prices since 2011.
- Gold sales reaching another all-time high of more than $17 billion supported by a record annual average Australian dollar gold price of more than $2500 per ounce.
- Nickel sales increasing amid higher volumes to more than $3.3 billion, the highest value in six years.
These increases offset a fall in the value of LNG (down 29 per cent) and condensate sales (down 46 per cent) due primarily to lower oil prices.
The overall impact of the Australian dollar on this result was muted, having been largely unchanged at an average of $0.69 US cents, down just one per cent compared to 2019.
The mining of minerals increased its position as the dominant activity in the State’s resources sector with $148 billion in sales, accounting for 85 per cent of all sales.
Iron ore was by far the most valuable mined commodity in Western Australia and its overall contribution to the value of the State’s resources sector continues to grow. It accounted for 79 per cent of the value of all mineral sales and 66 per cent of all mineral and petroleum sales in 2020 (up from 77 per cent and 59 per cent respectively in 2019).
The iron ore sector achieved record sales valued at $116 billion in 2020, up by 17 per cent on the previous year. This was due to a combination of:
- Record sales volumes of 846 million tonnes based on increased output across all of the State producers from the major operations through to mid-tier and junior miners.
- Further strengthening in iron ore prices driven by primarily ongoing supply disruptions in Brazil and rising steel production in China.
Gold sales reached an all-time high of more than $17 billion, up by 25 per cent from 2019. It was achieved off the back of a record annual average Australian dollar gold price of more than $2500 per ounce. High prices were underpinned by the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, weak global economic growth, as well as trade and geopolitical tensions. The volume of gold sales from Western Australia was down by two per cent.
Weaker prices amid a global market surplus and subdued demand meant that the value of alumina and bauxite sales declined by 20 per cent to $5.9 billion in 2020. The volume of alumina sales was fairly stable (up just one per cent), while bauxite sales increased by five per cent.
The value of nickel sales increased to more than $3.3 billion – the industry’s highest sales value in six years. This was the result of rising output from the Nickel West operations following start-up of new mines and improved operational stability after major maintenance shutdowns in 2019, as well as the restart of the Ravensthorpe project in the first half of the year.
Base metals sales were down to $1.4 billion (down 15 per cent from $1.7 billion in 2019). This primarily due to lower copper sales volumes across many of the State’s producers, as well as the suspension of the Nifty operations in November 2019. Marginally higher prices due to supply curtailments and improved demand in the form of COVID-19 economic stimulus were insufficient to offset the drop in volumes.
Market conditions in the lithium sector remained challenging with prices continuing to fall amid excess spodumene concentrate supplies and issues further down the supply chain. In response to weak market conditions, the focus of the State’s operations shifted to delivering on specific customer demand, while Altura Mining’s Pilgangoora project was put on care and maintenance in October. This resulted in overall lower sales volumes and saw the value of spodumene concentrate sales fall by 40 per cent to $793 million. This is the lowest spodumene concentrate sales value since the beginning of the lithium price boom in 2016-17.
The remaining minerals sales included:
- Mineral sands sales of $829 million (up 12 per cent)
- Salt sales of $431 million (up 29 per cent)
- Coal sales of $294 million (down 9 per cent)
- Rare earths sales of $270 million (down 9 per cent)
- Cobalt sales of $269 million (up 3 per cent)
- Diamond sales of $183 million (down 27 per cent).
The petroleum sector, which comprises crude oil, condensate, liquefied natural gas (LNG), natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), had sales valued at $27 billion in 2020, a decrease of 31 per cent from $39 billion in 2019.
As a result, the sector’s share of total mineral and petroleum sales dropped to 15 per cent in 2020 from 23 per cent in 2019.
LNG remained the most valuable petroleum product produced in Western Australia at $19 billion or 73 per cent of petroleum sales, followed by condensate at $3.7 billion (14 per cent) and oil at $1.8 million (seven per cent).
The value of LNG and condensate sales declined (down 29 and 46 per cent respectively), most dramatically in the June and September quarters, as oil prices fell to their lowest level in 20 years on a combination of excess supply amid a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia and subdued global demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic shutdowns.
Despite weaker prices, as well as operational issues at Gorgon and Prelude, LNG output was stable at more than 44 million tonnes. This reflected increased production from other projects including the North West Shelf and Pluto.
However, the volume of condensate produced declined seven per cent to 11 million kilolitres (KL), largely due to scheduled major maintenance at the North West Shelf in the September quarter and operational issues at Gorgon and Prelude. A lift in condensate production from the Ichthys Floating Production and Offloading (FPSO) vessel was insufficient to counteract the overall drop in Western Australia’s condensate output.
Lower prices similarly affected oil producers with value of oil sales falling 30 per cent compared to 2019. However, overall production volumes were boosted (up four per cent) due to a full year of output from the Greater Enfield project fields, which commenced in August 2019, and the Vincent field, which returned to production in July 2019. This was despite the Van Gogh project fields being offline from the end of the March quarter 2020 as the Ningaloo Vision FPSO underwent shipyard maintenance.
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