They say if history is anything to go by, Australian mining companies won`t know when the next mining investment wave will break.
The outlook is, it will resemble a tsunami and the scramble will be on to benefit from the sudden impact.
A mining investment super-cycle
This speculation comes from Deloitte’s Global Mining leader Phil Hopwood as he ponders the very future of mining jobs in an industry that has morphed itself to meet the challenge of increased productivity and lower costs management.
According to Deloitte’s, the mining investment super-cycle that allowed Australia to benefit from its natural resources is not the first occurrence of such cycles. Hopwood says it won`t be the last, however, he predicts the next wave will require a good look at the past and a definite change of direction.
“a giant wave of biblical proportions”
Back in 2003-2004 the focus was on global steel demand and the extent to which China accelerated its demand for steel caught most mining companies on the hop. It’s not like analysts were sitting there in their air-conditioned computer control rooms in 2001-2002 saying the raw commodities (iron ore and coal) demand coming out of China is going to produce a giant ‘demand’ wave of biblical proportions.
The tide was rising in 2003-2004 and moving forward into 2005, that`s when the full scale of the demand issue materialised. Although it was looked at as if China presented a once in a lifetime opportunity – owing to its construction fever phase, whereas it is now moving into a consumption based economy.
Australian mining companies must be ‘on the ball’ in future
Repeating what has become commonplace in the Australian mining industry is the call for the major and junior miners to wake up to the fact that they must be more focussed on cost management, how the investment cycle is managed and how they allocates their capital projects.
“embrace technology and be increasingly more innovative”
One of the critical issues mining companies faced wasn`t that they were building too many mines, it was more a case of how mining and operational costs were being handled. There`s an inherent need for Australian mining companies to embrace technology and be increasingly more innovative, as well as being more responsible for the long term management of all their operational costs.
A technologically-focussed workforce is around the corner
Ultimately, a technological workforce, highly trained in the operation of new mining technology, is a recipe for longevity in Australian mining jobs. Whilst there are some job types in the mines that will be in less demand, the future presents a whole new window of opportunity for existing and new workers to up-skill, re-train and re-educate themselves.
This may be at the expense of the individual – although more and more mining companies see the real value in providing career pathways for its workers who show great skill and have the mindset to move into management and more senior roles.
What will fuel mining jobs of the future?
The biggest issue facing the mining and resource sector in Australia is trying to predict what could ignite a repeat mining investment boom. Items on the table include: how big it could be and what lifespan could it have? Deloitte’s are of the opinion that there is a distinct possibility it will hit Australia smack-bang in the face again. This news of another tidal wave of commodities demand presents a new spin on the future of mining jobs in Australia.
The media is all too quick to hit the headlines with the demise of the industry, which in turn had the ripple effect of eroding confidence in the sector and extinguishes any hope people had of a highly-paid mining career.
This new outlook by Deloitte’s, who are a well-respected global authority on all things to do with financial and commodities markets, is heartening news for hundreds of thousands of people who currently look to the mining industry to sustain their lifestyles.
An overview of mining in Australia in 2014
Iron ore mines in the Western Australian Pilbara have been very profitable in the last few years for mining companies like Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group. However, they were originally built for the 1960s expansion in Japan.
After World War II, massive investment saw Japan rebuilt, which required iron ore, steel and the birth of investment in the Pilbara sprouted from those Japanese infrastructure needs.
“It`s supply and demand ““ if you don`t build the mines, you don`t build the supply, you won`t be able to feed the demand”, Hopwood said.
“You`re never that far away from an investment boom because the demand is still there.”¯
World demand drives new mining opportunities
Hopwood says demand for iron ore, coal and other precious minerals is going to be driven by South East Asia, South America, parts of Africa, China and India.
If you add up the huge population bases of South East Asia, which collectively includes the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand - you have around 750 million people who are reliant on natural resources to survive.
In terms of size of demand and population count, there`s some big economies in South America that could be exploited, although there are some major mining companies already eying up this market and seaborne trade from Australia is too extreme.
“Indian companies invest billions in Australian coal mining”
As iMINCO have reported many times, when you look at the issues facing India, there is immense opportunity to supply the country with high quality thermal coal from the coal-rich Bowen and Galilee Basins.
Major energy companies like Adani and GVK are proactive in the Australian mining industry and have already invested billions of dollars buying up port and ship loading facilities in preparation for coal mine development in the future.
These massive coal mining projects will create thousands of mining jobs in Queensland and sustain the industry for the better part of 30 years. India has an economy of around 1.1 billion people who also need to be provided with the means to power their future development needs.
South East Asia – a new customer base for Australian mining exports
One of the places showing positive signs of future growth for Australian mining companies is South East Asia, Indonesia and The Philippines. These are large economies and despite the investment challenges, there`s still opportunities to open up new trade in coal and iron ore.
“Australia`s is in a strong position to take advantage of this demand”
Deloitte’s finished off their outlook for the future of mining in Australia by saying if we look at where Australia sits in all of that, a country of 22 million people with some of the best natural resources in the world, you`ve got to say Australia has a great opportunity when it comes to its close proximity to some of the big South East Asian and Indian centres.
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