An overview of the latest key information on the performance of the State's resources industry.
Mineral and petroleum review 2022
Western Australia’s resources sector delivered another sales record, reaching $246 billion in 2022.
This was a significant increase on the previous record of $234 billion in 2021-22, and $15 billion more than the previous calendar year high of $231 billion in 2021.
Although down on previous record years due to lower prices, the iron ore industry achieved historically high sales of $126 billion and record production of 855 million tonnes (Mt).
The fall in the value of iron ore sales was exceeded by growth in the petroleum and lithium industries amid surging prices.
Record prices and local production translated into an all-time high Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production value of $51 billion (almost $13 billion more than the previous high in 2021-22). Despite lower production, some of the highest US dollar oil prices in more than a decade also meant that condensate production was valued at a record $9 billion and crude oil production was valued at an eight-year high of $4.1 billion.
Supported by all-time high prices and local tonnages, the value of spodumene concentrate sales increased to a record $16.3 billion (more than double the previous record of $7.9 billion in 2021-22).
The record result was supported by growth in several other commodities:
- Gold sales were valued at a record $17.8 billion, with the highest level of production since the mid-1990s and record Australian dollar prices.
- The value of nickel sales increased to $5.7 billion and the highest level in 15 years largely on the back of the high prices in the same period.
- Alumina ($6.9 billion), mineral sands ($1.3 billion), rare earths ($797 million), salt (a record $625 million), and cobalt (a record $528 million) sales were all higher primarily due to increased prices.
The sector was also assisted by an overall weaker Australian dollar (as most commodities are priced in US dollars). It averaged 69 US cents for the financial year due to strength in the US dollar and financial market volatility.
Minerals production was once again the dominant activity in the State’s resources sector with $179 billion in sales, accounting for 73 per cent of all resources sector sales. This was down on recent years and the long-term historical average.
Iron ore remained the bedrock of the resources sector in Western Australia, achieving sales valued at $126 billion – still historically high but down from record levels in 2021.
This fall in the value of iron ore sales was due to a decline in the price of iron ore from the all-time highs observed during 2021 that resulted from enforced steel production cuts in China to curb emissions, as well a downturn in China’s property and construction sectors.
The iron ore price did recover through the first half of 2022 on more accommodative macroeconomic policy from the Chinese Government which improved iron ore market sentiment, before declining again as China’s commitment to its COVID-zero policy affected economic growth. An easing of China’s COVID-19 related restrictions in November, economic stimulus for infrastructure projects, and measures to support an ailing property sector, saw prices rebound to end the year but not enough to offset the earlier losses.
There was 855 Mt of iron ore sold from Western Australia, the highest quantity on record for a single calendar or financial year. It was supported by record shipments from Hancock Prospecting and Fortescue Metals Group, as well as a recovery in sales from Rio Tinto’s operations particularly later in the year due to operational improvements and the ramp-up of Gudai-Darri.
The iron ore industry’s share of sales was down on previous years, but it still accounted for 70 per cent of all mineral sales and 51 per cent of total mineral and petroleum sales.
Gold sales were valued at a record $17.8 billion. The price of gold was fairly stable in US dollar terms, supported in the first half of the year by macroeconomic uncertainty associated with the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It came under pressure in the second half of the year from a surging US dollar. However, for local producers, a weaker Australian dollar resulted in an overall price gain. There was 6.9 million ounces (214 tonnes) of gold sold from projects in the State – the highest volume for a calendar year in 25-years.
Record prices and higher volumes translated into all-time high spodumene concentrate sales valued at $16.3 billion, solidifying in its position as the third most valuable minerals by sales in Western Australia. Lithium demand continued its rapid growth which continued to outstrip supply, supported by Government policies, particularly in China, to encourage the sale of Electric Vehicles (EVs). The spot price of spodumene concentrate eclipsed A$10,000 per tonne, before easing slightly on weaker demand. Sales volumes were the highest level on record at 2.68 Mt due largely to the ramp-up of expansions at Greenbushes, the commencement and ramp-up of the Ngungaju plant at Pilgangoora, first concentrates and ramp-up at Wodgina, and improved mining capacity and processing rates at Mt Cattlin.
Alumina sales increased to $6.7 billion on the back of overall higher prices. Early in the year, prices increased to the highest levels in several years on tighter supply from the Russia-Ukraine conflict as well as production curtailments to meet emissions targets in China. They declined thereafter as new supply was brought online around the world. The value of alumina sales increased despite a fall in sales units. Alcoa was affected by lower bauxite grade, unplanned outages, and maintenance events, while South32 was affected by planned calciner maintenance in the second half of the year. There were no bauxite shipments in 2022 after they were discontinued by Alcoa at the end of 2021.
The value of nickel sales increased to $5.7 billion, the highest level in 15-years. This result was largely on the back of a dramatic increase in nickel prices that included a daily high of greater than US$100,000 per tonne in March 2022. This was against a backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and related supply concerns, as well as strong demand from the stainless steel production and EVs. Prices corrected in subsequent months, before rising strongly to end 2022 on news of supply issues in Indonesia – the world’s largest producer – and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in China. Local sales tonnages increased from Murrin Murrin after plant maintenance in 2021, as well as the ramp-up of the Shoemaker-Levy deposit at the Ravensthorpe operations, and the Savannah project in the Kimberley. Conversely, IGO’s production was down, most notably from Nova due to a fire at the diesel power station in December, while Nickel West was affected by smelter maintenance.
Copper sales were valued at $1.6 billion. This was down from previous years due to a fall in the price of the red metal from record levels. While prices remained historically high, they declined mid-year on US interest rate rises and concerns about global economic growth, then partially rebounded at the end of the year on softer US inflation data and the relaxing of China’s COVID-zero restrictions. Sales volumes were also down, as the DeGrussa operations approach end-of-life, with mining concluding in September/October and processing transitioning to low-grade stockpiles and waste.
The remaining significant other mineral sales included:
- Mineral sands – $1.3 billion.
- Rare earths – $797 million.
- Salt – $625 million (the highest on record).
- Cobalt – $528 million (the highest on record).
- Zinc – $326 million.
- Coal – $314 million.
- Manganese – $273 million.
Record prices and local production translated into an all-time high LNG production value of $51 billion (almost $13 billion more than the previous high in 2021-22). Despite lower production, some of the highest US dollar oil prices in more than a decade also meant that condensate production was valued at a record $9 billion and crude oil production was valued at an eight year high of $4.1 billion.
The petroleum sector, comprising LNG, condensate, crude oil, domestic gas and LPG production, achieved sales valued at a record $67 billion.
The sector’s share of total mineral and petroleum sales increased to 27 per cent, which was higher than pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.
LNG was the most valuable petroleum product with production valued at a record $51 billion or 76 per cent of all petroleum sales, followed by condensate at a record $9 billion (14 per cent), crude oil at an eight-year high of $4.1 billion (six per cent), domestic gas at a record $2.2 billion (three per cent), and LPG at a 12-year high of $762 million (one per cent).
Sales values for oil and gas products were supported through the first half of the year by rising demand outpacing additions to supply. This was exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the issues it created for supplies. Gas supply concerns, particularly in Europe, flowed through to and supported higher prices in the Asia Pacific market (the main market for LNG from Western Australia) as importers of Russian gas sought alternative sources of supply. While they remained above pre-pandemic levels, oil prices eased in the second half of 2022 as global growth slowed and recessionary fears intensified. Gas prices remained elevated but moderated as storage reached capacity in Europe stifling demand.
LNG production was at its highest level on record (47.4 Mt) largely due to the strong performance of Gorgon, after it was affected by operational issues in previous years. Wheatstone and Pluto also outperformed, with the latter supported by the delivery of gas the North West Shelf through the start-up of the Pluto-Karratha Gas Plant Interconnector. There is potential upside to local LNG production as Prelude was affected by an industrial dispute, maintenance, and small fire in the second half of the year.
Condensate production was 11.1 GL, a decrease from 12.2 GL in 2021 but still a historically high level. This decline largely reflected a fall in output from Prelude and the Ichthys floating production, storage and offloading facility.
Oil production was down to 4.4 GL, continuing a slow decline from the record levels of 15 to 20 years ago as larger oil projects including Enfield/Vincent, North West Shelf, Pyrenees and Van Gogh approach depletion.
For an overview of the overall performance of the resources sector against key indicators, please see the mineral and petroleum industry activity review 2022.
For more information on Statistics Digest
For more information on the Annual Report