An overview of the latest key information on the performance of the State's resources industry.
Mineral and petroleum review 2021-22
Western Australia’s resources sector delivered another sales record of $231 billion in 2021-22.
This was up marginally from the previous record of $230 billion in 2021, and $20 billion more than the previous financial year high of $211 billion in 2020-21.
The iron ore industry remained the bedrock of the sector with sales valued at $137 billion.
While this result for iron ore was still historically high, it was down from previous record levels. This was due to the price of iron ore falling from an all-time high in excess of US$200 per tonne in mid-2021 to less than US$100 per tonne towards the end of 2021.
The fall in the value of sales by the iron ore industry was largely offset by the continued recovery in the petroleum industry from rising oil and natural gas prices. Higher prices translated into LNG production valued at an all-time high of $38 billion, condensate production valued at a record $8.6 billion, and crude oil production value at a seven-year high of $3.6 billion.
The sector’s overall performance was supported by strength in several other commodity markets during the financial year:
- Gold sales were valued at a record $17 billion, supported by the highest local volumes in 20-years and overall stronger Australian dollar prices from a weaker currency.
- Surging lithium prices and higher local sales volumes drove the value of spodumene concentrate sales to a record $6.8 billion (more than two and a half times the previous record), making it the State’s 3rd highest value mineral by sales in place of alumina.
- Alumina ($6.7 billion), nickel ($4.9 billion and the highest level in almost 15-years), copper (a record $2 billion), mineral sands (a record $1.3 billion), rare earths ($779 million), and cobalt (a record $522 million) sales were all higher primarily on the back of increased prices.
The sector was also assisted by an overall weaker Australian dollar (as most commodities are priced in US dollars), which averaged 73 US cents for the financial year due to strength in the US dollar.
Minerals production was again the dominant activity in the State’s resources sector with $179 billion in sales. It accounted for 78 per cent of all sales. While this was down on recent years, due predominantly to a fall in the value of iron ore sales and recovery in the value of petroleum production, it was in keeping with historical levels.
Iron ore remained the most valuable mined commodity in Western Australia. It accounted for 76 of all mineral sales and 59 per cent of total mineral and petroleum sales. While iron ore’s share of sales was down, it remained overwhelmingly the dominant industry in the State’s resources sector.
It achieved sales valued at $137 billion – still historically high but down from previous record levels. This was due to the price of iron ore falling from an all-time high in excess of US$200 per tonne in mid-2021 to less than US$100 per tonne towards the end of 2021. This was the result of enforced steel production cuts in China to curb emissions, as well a downturn in the country’s property and construction sectors. The iron ore price recovered through the first half of 2022 on more accommodative macroeconomic policy from the Chinese Government which improved iron ore market sentiment, but not enough to offset the earlier losses.
There was 844 million tonnes (Mt) of iron ore sold from the State, the second highest quantity on record for a single calendar or financial year after 2020. It was the result of increased sales from the majority of local producers, which compensated for lower output from Rio Tinto’s operations and the impact of above average rainfall, cultural heritage management, as well as delays in growth and production replacement projects.
Gold sales were valued at a record $17 billion. The price of gold was fairly stable in US dollar terms supported by the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, economic uncertainty, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. However, a weaker Australian dollar resulted in an overall price gain for local producers. There was the 6.9 million ounces (214 tonnes) of gold sold in the State – the highest volume in 20-years. This was principally driven by higher sales from Granny Smith, Gruyere, Kanowna Belle, Gwalia, and St Ives, among other projects.
Lithium demand continued its rapid growth from the manufacture of batteries for Electric Vehicles (EVs), which continued to outstrip supply. The spot price of spodumene concentrate mirrored tightness in the market, reaching greater than A$6,000 per tonne in June 2022. This was over six times the price a year earlier. Sales volumes were the second highest level on record (after 2017-18) at 2.05 Mt due largely to the ramp-up of expansions at Greenbushes and improved processing rates and recoveries at Mt Cattlin. Record prices and higher volumes translated into all-time high sales valued at $6.8 billion, and the lithium industry displacing the alumina industry as the third most valuable minerals by sales in Western Australia.
The value of alumina increased (to $6.7 billion) on the back of higher prices that were supported by tighter supply, due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict as well as production curtailments to meet emissions targets in China. This was despite a fall in sales volumes due to impacts on output at Alcoa’s operations during the first half of 2022 including operational issues, unplanned maintenance events, and reduced bauxite quality. Bauxite shipments from Alcoa were discontinued at the end of 2021.
The nickel industry marked its highest sales value in almost 15-years, achieving $4.9 billion in sales. This result was due to a dramatic increase in nickel prices that included a daily high of greater than US$100,000 per tonne in March 2022 and causing the London Metal Exchange to suspend trading and impose limits on daily price movements. 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. Actual sales volumes though fell to their lowest level in 20-years, mainly due to worker shortages and unplanned downtime at Nickel West, in addition to planned maintenance at Murrin Murrin. This more than offset higher output from the Ravensthorpe operations as production ramped-up at the Shoemaker-Levy deposit which came online, as well as the restart of the Savannah project in the Kimberley.
Copper sales were valued at a record $2 billion as prices were stable at greater than US$9,000 per tonne (and even topped US$10,000 per tonne). Prices for the red metal were supported by supply concerns stoked by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Sales volumes were also higher with increased supply from most local producers.
The remaining significant other mineral sales included:
- Mineral sands – $1.3 billion (the highest on record).
- Rare earths – $779 million.
- Cobalt – $522 million (the highest on record).
- Salt - $558 million.
- Zinc - $355 million.
- Coal – $325 million.
- Manganese – $324 million.
The petroleum sector, comprising LNG, condensate, crude oil, domestic gas and LPG, continued to recover to achieve sales valued at $52 billion. This was a record result.
It means that the sector’s share of total mineral and petroleum sales improved to 22 per cent, which is around pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.
LNG was the most valuable petroleum product produced in Western Australia at a record $38 billion or 72 per cent of all petroleum sales, followed by condensate at a record $8.6 billion (17 per cent), crude oil at a seven-year high of $3.6 billion (seven per cent), domestic gas at $1.6 billion (three per cent) and LPG at a 10-year high of $708 million (one per cent).
Rising sales values for oil and gas products were due to recovering demand which outpaced additions to supply, accelerated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the uncertainty it created for supplies. Gas supply concerns, particularly in Europe, have 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 have sought alternative sources of supply.
LNG production was at its highest level on record (46.1 Mt) as operational issues at Gorgon were resolved allowing it to operate at full strength, and longer period of production from Prelude despite further operational issues as well as an industrial dispute. This offset lower production from the North West Shelf due to scheduled maintenance.
Condensate production was 12.1 GL, an increase from 11.1 GL in 2020-21 and a historically high level. This was supported by higher output from the Ichthys floating production, storage and offloading facility, Prelude, and Gorgon. They offset lower production from North West Shelf and Wheatstone.
Oil production was 4.8 GL, up from 4.3 GL but well below the record levels of 15 to 20 years ago. This was supported by output from Van Gogh since it returned to production in March 2021 as well as increased reliability at Enfield.
For an overview of the overall performance of the resources sector against key indicators, please see the mineral and petroleum industry activity review 2021-22.
For more information on Statistics Digest
For more information on the Annual Report