Mining Industry in Australia

The mining is the pillar of strength for Australian economy as it accounts for about 6.4% of the total value added to the economy. In 2020, although this industry has been somewhat immune to the wrath of the pandemic compared to other hard-hit industries.

In 2021, the market size of this industry is expected to decline by 8-9% as of the decline in export and trade wars with China. Beyond 2021, the future of this industry will primarily be driven by the use of AI and automation in the extraction and processing of the minerals all the while transforming this traditional industry into an advanced and intelligent one.

  • Definition / Scope
  • Market Overview
  • Key Metrics
  • Market Risks
  • Market Drivers
  • Market Restraints
  • Industry Challenges
  • Technology Trends
  • Other Key Market Trends
  • Market Size and Forecast
  • Market Outlook
  • Technology Roadmap
  • Competitive Landscape
  • Competitive Factors
  • Key Market Players
  • Strategic Conclusion
  • References

Definition / Scope

Since the early 1960s and mid-1980s, mining has been instrumental for the growth of Australian economy. As per Statistica, in 2020, the real gross value added of the mining industry accounted for about $187 billion accounting for about 6.4 % of the total gross value added in Australia, making it one of the key industries in the country.

Australia boasts a relatively flat terrain and is sparingly populated except for some coastal regions, both aspects favours extensive exploration and mine development. Out of Australia’s roughly 350 mines, almost half are in Western Australia as this state beacons rich resources quintessential for exploration of mines.

Australia specializes in producing 19 minerals and is the world’s largest exporter of black coal, iron ore, alumina, lead, zinc, lithium, bauxite and many other resources. In addition, Australia is estimated to have the largest gold mine reserves in the world.

Australia is among the top five producers of most of the world’s key minerals viz:

  • the world’s leading producer of bauxite, alumina, rutile and tantalum
  • the second largest producer of uranium, lead, ilmenite, zircon and lithium
  • the third largest producer of iron ore, and zinc
  • the fourth largest producer of black coal, gold, manganese and nickel and
  • the fifth largest producer of aluminum, brown coal, diamonds, silver and copper.

At present. the pandemic has constrained the industry’s growth by affecting the pricing of commodities, export as well as the overall demand for the Australian minerals.

Market Overview

As per Statista, mining engages more than 130,000 Australians and contributes 6.4% to the economic output of Australia, thereof comprising 60% of its export. Even in the wake of the pandemic, this industry showed resilience backed up by strong policies and support exercised by the government.

Below is the overview of the key mining industry in Australia:

Coal mining in Australia

Australia’s coal mining industry market size is estimated to be around $73 billion, with more than 110 companies currently active in this segment. The effects of covid has far reaching impact on this industry disrupting the export market of Australia.

China’s demand for coal is decreasing as it is seeking to be self-sufficient in coal primarily for the production of steel. In this regard, the average industry growth is likely to be moderate over the next five years. The coal mining companies holding largest share in the pie includes BHP Group limited, Glencore Operations Australia and Yancoal Australia Limited.

Exploration and other mining support services in Australia

  • Mineral exploration

Australia’s mineral exploration market size is estimated to be 3 billion employing around 2.439 businesses. However, in 2020-21, the pandemic appears to significantly reduce the demand for the mineral exploration services leading to fall in industry revenue by 12.1%.

  • Mining support services

Mining support services comprise of maintenance, rehabilitation and transport activities. Its market size is estimated to be $10 billion with more than 1.893 players operating in the industry. In 2020-21, given the decrease in pursuit of mining and commodity prices, the overall industry revenue appears to fall by 11.6%. however, over the next five years the mining support service is likely to show strong growth opportunities with increase in capital expenditure in oil and gas extraction.

  • Petroleum exploration

Between 2015-2020, the average industry growth of this sector was around 21.3%. However, in 2020-21, the pandemic restricted the exploration expenditure made by oil and gas producers in Australia. This will result in the drop in the overall industry revenue by 23% and reduce 13.1% over the next five years. The petroleum exploration is a highly volatile industry with high-risk, high return prospects. The market size for petroleum exploration in Australia is projected to be around $1 billion with more than 458 companies currently active in this field.

Metal Ore Mining in Australia

  • Copper Ore Mining

For the period of 2015-2020, the copper ore mining industry average industry growth was only 1%. Since, the performance of this sector largely depends on the world price and production volumes, in the next five years, this industry has high growth prospect due to higher copper prices in US dollars. The market size of copper ore mining in Australia is estimated to be $6 billion and number of businesses currently in operation are about 40. The top companies with highest market share include Glencore Holding, BHP Group, Newcrest Mining, OZ minerals and Sandfire Resources Ltd.

  • Iron ore mining

In 2021, iron ore mining was one of the biggest industries in Australia with revenue of $128.6 billion. In 2020, iron ore mining profit accounted for 49.3% of the total Australian revenue. Covid induced increase in steel production in China, which drove iron ore price to soar to the highest since 2011. Also, interruption in supply of iron ore from Brazil helped to expand profit margins for the industry. The surging price increased revenue of some companies such as Hancock Prospecting by 25%, and Fortescue Metals revenue by 28%. However, over the next five years through 2025-26, profit margins for iron ore is projected to decline at around 6% with continued increases in output volumes and slower demand from China. The industry’s revenue is expected to increase at an annualised 16% in the next five years.

  • Gold ore mining

In 2020-21, the revenue growth for the gold ore mining industry is estimated to rise by 4.6% owing to greater gold output, high demand and increasing gold prices triggered by covid 19 pandemic. The market size of the gold ore mining in Australia is projected to be $23 billion and the number of business active in the field are more than 206 companies. In the next five years, the industry is expected to function well given the demand for gold is likely to increase as of its safe haven characteristics. The companies with the largest market share in this sector consist of Newmont Australia, Newcrest Mining, Gold Fields, Evolution Mining, Northern Star Resources and AngloGold Ashanti Australia.

  • Manganese and other mineral mining

The companies with greatest market share in the manganese and other mineral mining in Australia comprise of South32, Anglo American Australia and Consolidated Minerals Holdings. In the next five years, the manganese and other mineral mining industry is likely to have strong growth due to steady demand and output from Chinese steel producers.

  • Bauxite Mining

Despite the onslaught of the pandemic, this industry had a strong run driven by stable production and increasing demand for aluminium. The market size for this segment is estimated to be around $4 billion, employing around 15 business. The three companies that account for nearly 94% of this segment revenue include Rio Tinto Limited, Alcoa Limited and South 32 Limited.

  • Mineral Sand mining

The market size for mineral sand mining in Australia is estimated to be around $3 billion with 91 companies actively involved in this sector. During the period of 2015-2020, the average industry growth for mineral sand mining in Australia was only 3.7%. The companies with largest market share in mineral sand mining in Australia include Iluka resources and Tronox limited.

  • Nikel ore mining

The market size of the nickel ore mining in Australia is around 2 billion with more than 30 companies currently operating in Australia. The companies with the largest market share comprise of BHP group, Glencore Holdings and Western Areas limited. In the period of 2015-2020, the average industry growth rate for this sector was 5.5%. In 2021, the nickel ore mining industry is likely to grow by 39.2% primarily due to high nickel output.

  • Silver, Lead and Zinc ore mining

Due to the negative impact of the pandemic, there was reduced domestic demand for these mineral ores in 2019-20, as a result, this industry performed poorly over the last five years. In the next five years, this industry is likely to improve as of the stronger domestic demand and volume growth with the trend of surge in prices for these minerals. The companies with the largest market share in this sector are Glencore Holdings Pty Limited, MMG Limited, South32 Limited, Perilya Limited and CBH Resources Limited.

  • Uranium Mining

The market size of this industry is projected to be $696 million with only three players active in this sector. In 2021, the industry revenue for the uranium mining industry in Australia is projected to fall by 11.3% due to declining output and the closure of the Ranger mine. Previously, the industry growth rate was only 3.3%, however, in the next five years, the global demand for uranium is expected to recover owing to the expanding attention in nuclear energy generation by countries such as China, South Korea and India. The companies with highest market share include BHP group Limited, Healthgate Resources Pty Ltd and Energy Resources of Australia Ltd.

Non-metallic mineral mining and quarrying in Australia

  • Gravel and sand quarrying

In response to the pandemic, this industry only had a relatively less impact as of its irreplaceable nature in the construction and building activities. However, in the year 2021, the prices for these minerals are estimated to decline along with the volume levels. In the next five years, the performance of this industry will depend on demand for glass and concrete products as well as on the infrastructure projects. There are around 722 companies active in this industry and the four companies holding 70.9% of the revenue include Boral Limited, Hanson Australia, Holcim Holdings Pty Ltd and ADBRI Limited.

  • Rock, Limestone and Clay mining

For the period of 2015-2020, the average industry growth was poor amounting to -0.2% due to the reduced construction activities. The overall future outlook for this industry depends on the construction and infrastructure projects. This industry holds the market size of $4 billion with more than 1270 companies engaged in this industry. The companies holding the largest share include Holcim Holdings, Hanson Australia Proprietary Limited and Boral Limited.

  • Salt, Lithium and Other Mineral Mining

The pandemic has hindered the exports of lithium ore and also induced the closure of many factories all over the world. In 2021, this negative effect is also likely to be subdued owing to the high output and demand for Sponumene in export markets and favourable pricing. The number of business currently operating in this industry are about 510 and four companies accounting 49.7% share of the overall pie include Windfeild Holdings, Rio Tinto Limited, Mitsui and Co Ltd and Mineral Resources Limited.

Oil and Gas Extraction in Australia

In 2021, the industry revenue is projected to fall by 32.6% as of the decline in prices, capital expenditure and investment in this sector. Although, for the period of 2015-2020 the average industry growth rate was 8.8% the next five years which appears to be promising for this industry as of the steadying demand and improving price conditions. The overall market size of this industry is estimated to be $70 billion with more than 1050 companies operating in this field. The companies with highest market share include Chevron Australia Holdings, Woodside Petroleum Ltd, ExxonMobil Australia, BHP Group Limited, Shell Energy Holdings and Santos Ltd.

Key Market Metrics:

Base Year2020
Market StageIn between growth and maturity – Transition stage
Market Revenues (2020, USD)$270 billion in export revenue
Market Decline Rate (2021, %)Around 8-9%, as of decline in export
Number of Companies in the marketOver 9000 companies
Market Concentration (% of market share help by top 3 market players)BHP Group 15%, Rio Tinto 10%, Fortescue Metals 6%

Top Market Opportunities

The Australian mining sector holds immense potential in minerals and raw materials such as lithium, cobalt and copper necessary in all forms of new technology advancements such as in transport, infrastructure, communications and energy systems. Between the period of 2017 and 2025, there has been increase in demand for lithium by more than threefold as of the increase in demand for EV batteries.

Australia also holds abundant possibilities in grass root exploration for minerals. in 2020, Australia was regarded second in the world for mineral exploration expenditure. In 2021, the exploration budget recovery is likely to improve further to 15-20% as of the high demand of these minerals in the industrializing countries like China and India. The western Australia also produces highly competitive commodities such as iron ore and gold making it immune to price related volatility.

Furthermore, this industry is unlikely to be short of skilled workforce as some of skills necessary in the mining industry are the same as in agriculture, manufacturing, construction and defense industry. Besides this, the Australian mining supply companies are also working to raise awareness of their industries amongst young Australians and build the workforce of the future. In view of this fact, the Mineral Council of Australia has invested over $60 million into minerals higher education, and has also partnered with universities to develop education system that delivers skilled workforce for the future.

Market Drivers

Digital transformation

The mining industry players needs to adapt to changing business models and digital transformation enabled by automation, data analytics, internet of things, artificial intelligence, all of which makes the mining industry viable in the longer run. The automated production can have 16% faster drill cycles and 20% additional utilization. Additionally, it can also operate in extreme condition. For instance, if there is cyclone the operation can continue without interruption. If the end state is complete optimized mining sector, the first step should be automated mining sector.

Mergers and acquisitions

The merger & acquisitions is one of the major driver for the mining industry in Australia. For example, in the period between October-December 2020, Australia held a 27.3% share in the global metals and mining industry. According to Global Data’s deals data, the combined value of the top five metals & mining M&A deals stood at $4.67 billion, compared to the overall value of $5.17 billion recorded for the quarter. The top five deals of the last quarter of 2020 include:

Major merger and acquisition dealsDeal value
Northern Star Resources acquired Saracen Mineral Holdings$4.1 billion
Pilbara Minerals acquired Altura Lithium Operation$175 million
Aurelia Metals acquired Dargues Gold Mine$148.8 million
MACA asset transaction with Downer EDI$132.1 million
YGH Australia Investment asset transaction with Sheffield Resources$98.1 million

Market Restraints

Commodity prices

In the wake of the pandemic, the commodity prices have become the top area of concern for the mining industry. Largely, government stimulus and supply chain disruption induced by the pandemic has caused surge in prices of copper, nickel, iron ore, gold. lithium, aluminum and other base metals by 20-80% compared to last year. In this regard, mining industry in Australia needs to review their production targets and costs.

Tax rate

Australia’s company tax rate of 30% needs to be reduced to remain internationally competitive. For instance, Canada, has only 26% tax rate and has introduced accelerated depreciation write off in response to the USA company tax rate reduction and write off rules.

Covid pandemic

The pandemic has led many countries of the world into economic downturn and uncertainty affecting the mining industry as well by bringing volatility in prices, production, trade deals and overall supply and demand, the mining industry players in Australia are faced with delays in shipping, freight and transport in trading with other countries. This have caused a serious bottleneck in the whole supply chain process. Besides this, in the second quarter of 2020, the pandemic also resulted a $5.3 billion drop in the total value of mining deals in Australia.

Community relations and social license

Social license refers to the acceptance of a mining company by its employees, community stakeholders and the general public. It is less about meeting minimum regulatory compliance and more about maintaining social and environmental responsibilities, such as, supporting indigenous communities, responsible sourcing, and the ethics of sustainable mining. Following the environmental risks and safety concerns linked with mining industry, obtaining license for the operation remains a due challenge for this industry.

Climate change and natural disasters

In 2019-2020, Australian bushfire brought unprecedented loss to Australia mining industry by bringing down the air quality levels leading to stalled operations and increasing costs for this industry. Given the increased investors and community pressure, the ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) and carbon emission abatement remains a constant area of concern for the mining industry in Australia.

Trade war with China

The Australia-China coal trade was worth $13.8 billion in 2019. However, December 2020, China imposed ban on the import of Australian coal and introduced new regulatory compliances rules and quotas for iron ore and coal imports. Due to this, almost $700 million worth of Australian coal was held up at ports stating “environmental quality” problems. Trade war with China has major implication for Australian economy as China accounts for about one-third of Australia’s trade, while Australia accounts for less than 4% of China’s commerce.

Industry Challenges

Large unstructured terrain

The construction/ working site is diverse and is constantly evolving. For instance, in harsher environment such as underground for mineral excavation, it is difficult to bring machinery and connectivity. As a result, it is very difficult for the miners to have consistency in operations and therefore needs to constantly evolve their business models.

Digital divide increasing gap in overall equipment efficiency

There appears to be digital divide in mining sector in Australia as only a few large companies use advanced capabilities, but a large number remain untouched by digital transformation, as a result, there is increasing gap in the Australian mining equipment efficiency.

The best practices include state of the art autonomous system that curtails the manned production hours and results in faster drills cycles and overall operations. For instance, through digital convergence, miners can have higher operational visibility and real-time monitoring capabilities which help to achieve safety, minimize downtime, reduce energy consumption as well as facilitate optimal utilization of mining assets.

Technology Trends

In the last few decades, mining industry has seen a colossal change in the way technology is used. Now more than ever, technology has an indispensable enabler for this industry without which this industry could falter. Some of the industry’s technology trends are explained as follows:

Geospatial data

The geospatial data has become accessible and clearer with the use of different technologies such as 3D modelling, virtual reality and Augmented reality. All of these enable this industry to interpret the intricacies of the mining industry without actually working in the field. This will drastically reduce cost and safety concerns associated with manned activities.

Geographic Information System

GIS enable the miners to visualise real life environments in new ways by providing insights on mineral exploration, geochemical data, tailings management as well as regulatory compliance.

Artificial Intelligence

The use of AI in this sector has addressed the issues of efficiency, productivity and safety all at once. With machine learning and automated vehicles, miners can trace and explore mine in half the time and cost. AI maps difficult terrains than previously possible, enabling the miners to understand area’s geology and drilling options.

Automated Drones

The Unmanned Ariel System otherwise known simply as drones has brought down the cost, increased the safety and surveillance in hazardous areas as well as assisted in site mapping for the mining industry otherwise done through helicopters or risky human operators.

Regulatory Trends

In March 2020, the government of Australia revised the timeframe to review applications from 30 days to six months, making large-scale mining investments more feasible. This led to a 3.9% increase in investments in mining machinery in Queensland.

In terms of regulatory allegiance, getting the environmental approvals is still difficult affair and takes a long time to come into effect. In particular, obtaining land access from aboriginal heritage takes too long and getting approval for new coal mines has become even more difficult and stringent as the mining companies needs to meet water quality and water tables requirements. In the future, the government needs to introduce friendlier regulation for the mining industry.

Other Key Market Trends

As miners navigate the new normal, rebuilding trust among their extended ecosystem of stakeholders is a central theme shaping the industry.

Collaboration and mergers

Miners need to collaborate as an industry by pooling data and leveraging integrated and predictive technology and foster innovation. In 2017, Deloitte Tracking the Trends report advocated, collaboration between the government, mining companies and all relevant stakeholders is fundamental for innovation in this sector.

In light of this agenda, several government initiatives by such as METS Ignited and the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia were created so as to foster joint innovation and collaboration in the mining industry. Together, METS and Australian mining sector contributed 15% of GDP in 2020.


Decarbonization in mining banks on electrification and renewables. In 2020, the Minerals Council of Australia published its Climate Action Plan to decarbonize the industry, including the use of renewable hydrogen. Considering this, BHP announced to invest around $400 million over the next five years on low emissions technologies and solutions to address Scope 3 emissions.

The company has also signed a deal to develop new solar and wind farms in Queensland to run their coal operation on solar. This will enable them to cut their indirect emissions in the country by 20% over five years. Therefore, mining players needs to address decarbonization to meet their ESG commitments and win back investor and community trust in order to stay in the game.

Market Size and Forecast

The global mining market is expected to grow from $1641.67 billion in 2020 to $1845.55 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.4%. Out of which, Asia Pacific was the largest market for the global mining, accounting for 71% of the market share in 2020.

The Australian mining industry market size is estimated to be around $296 billion with over 9000 players. Even tough, the market size of the mining industry in Australia has grown by on average 5% per year between 2016 and 2021. However, in 2021, the market size of the mining industry in Australia is estimated to decline by 8-9% given the decline in export and trade war with China.

Market Outlook

Australia has been resilient amidst unpredictability driven by the pandemic. It has earned itself the title of a reliable supplier of mineral and energy commodities as it delivered consistent service even in the times of Covid 19 pandemic without compromising on the health and safety standards of its workers and communities. This industry, in particular, performed better as this industry already had a high regard for the health and safety of its employees before the pandemic took over.

Besides the obvious downside of the pandemic such as market uncertainty, low interest rates, meagre economic progress, the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for the Australian mining sector. The pandemic has induced market volatility and as a result, investors worldwide are betting on safe havens assets such as gold. Moreover, key minerals that would drive the mining industry in Australia in 2021 are explained in the table below:

Key mineralsMarket sizeGrowth prospect
Iron ore$128.7 billionIn 2020, Australia had the world’s largest share of iron ore resources, accounting for 29% (and 53% of global iron ore exports). In 2021, iron ore export is projected to rise from $77.8 to $93.8 billion. Iron ore mining in Australia market size growth in 2021 is projected to be around 13.5%.  
Manganese$4.5 billionThe market revenue of the Manganese sector estimated rise by 6.4% and reach to $4.5 billion in 2021.
Coal$15.7 billionAustralia is the world’s largest exporter of metallurgical coal (accounting for around 60% of global share of metallurgical coal exports). In 2021, Australia’s metallurgical coal export is estimated to increase from 180 to 198 million tonnes. During the forecast period of 2020-2024, the Australian coal market is anticipated to rise at a CAGR of more than 1.4%.
Gold$24.4 billionAustralia is the ranks second as the producer of gold in the world. In 2021, the export of gold is projected to reach $17.1 billion. Gold ore mining in Australia annualized market size growth for the period of 2016–2021 was 7.4%.
Nickel$2.7 billionAustralia is the sixth largest player in nickel in the world. In 2021, export earnings are estimated to rise from $2.7 to 3.9 billion. The nickel ore mining in Australia market size growth is estimated to be 39.2%.  
Copper$6.4 billionGlobally, Australia is the seventh largest producer of copper and third largest exporter of copper ores and concentrates. In 2021, copper export is predicted to surge from 927,000 tonnes to 1 million tonnes. The copper mining market size growth is projected to be 5.4%.

Australia’s mining market is diverse, and duly, so are its mining companies. BHP and Rio Tinto, are two of the biggest mining companies in the world. Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining are also aiming to concretise its name in the mining industry. Most of these companies have been affected in some way by the current economic downturn induced by the Covid pandemic.

While the demand for Australian iron-ore has increased, mainly from China, both thermal coal and cooking coal prices were below industry estimates in the same period. The outlook for the mining industry remains uncertain and is highly fragmented.

Technology Roadmap

According to the World Economic Forum and Accenture, the mining industry is estimated benefit around $ 190 billion over the period 2016–2025, equivalent to approximately 9% of the industry’s profit as a result if digital transformation of this industry.

The different types of technologies are being used across the mining value chain so as to bring about efficiency in the overall mining process. However, it should to noted that the use of these technologies is not exclusive for a specific activity. For instance, intelligent operation centers is applied to both extraction and processing operations. Similarly, augmented and virtual reality, along with digital twinning, can be executed for the design and construction of mining projects or even for extraction and processing operations.

Competitive Landscape

There are over 9000 mining companies operating in Australia. This industry comprises of minor players usually engaged in exploration of new mining deposits and major players such as BHP and Rio Tinto. The minor players that make critical discoveries are eventually acquired by major players.

This industry holds high barriers of entry given it entails high capital requirements, rights to develop resource, regulations, natural economies of scale and capacity to market commodities to chief export markets.

Key Market Players


The company specializes in the mining of petroleum and metals. It has mineral and oil and gas operations in Australia and both American continents. With a global workforce of about 62,000, it generates more than $43 billion revenue annually. The chief assets of BHP include a 57.5% stake in the Escondida copper mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert, along with ownership of the Olympic Dam mine of Australia. The company boasts a market cap of approximately $131 billion. The market share of BHP is estimated to be around 15%.

Rio Tinto

Headquartered in Melbourne, Rio Tinto has a workforce of about 47,000 across six continents and 35 countries, Rio Tinto generates revenues $38 billion annually. The company’s primarily deals in copper, iron ore, uranium and diamonds in Australia and Canada. It also extracts gold and industrial minerals such as iron ore and is a leading producer of natural-colored diamonds. It has a market cap of nearly $108 billion. The market share of this company is projected to be around 10%.

Fortescue Metals

Headquartered in Perth, Fortescue employs more than 5500 workforces and specializes on producing iron ore. It has a market cap of over $33 billion and is the lowest-cost provider of iron ore to China. The market share of this company is expected to be around 6%.

Newcrest Mining

Founded as a subsidiary of Newmont Mining Corporation, with headquarters in Melbourne, it specializes in the mining of the gold. The company’s efficient gold production is backed by strong reserves and selectively picked greenfield and brownfield exploration projects. Newcrest Mining has a market cap of around $20 billion.


A spinoff of the BHP Group, South32 is proving to be a powerhouse by generating revenues of over $6 billion in 2020. Headquartered in Perth, it specializes in producing Aluminium, Bauxite, manganese, metallurgical coal, nickel, energy, zinc, silver and lead. South32’s market cap nearly amounts to $7.7 billion.

Strategic Conclusion

In 2021, the pandemic continues to dominate the mining industry’s story by instigating different obstacles in extraction, distribution as well the export of minerals. However, on positive side, the pandemic has drawn the limelight on the use of technology – automation, GIS, AI, drones so as to reconfigure manned operations increase productivity in the long run. Over the next few years, this industry will stay afloat on the grounds of high growth prospects of some minerals such as gold, nickel, iron ore and copper.




AIArtificial Intelligence
GISGeographic Information System
ESGEnvironmental, Social and Corporate governance
M&AMerger and Acquisition
USUnited States

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