Australia’s 5 Most Valuable Mineral Exports

One of the richest nations on Earth, Australia’s economy is built on mineral resources. Here’s a look at the country’s five most valuable mineral exports.

Australia’s economy is largely based on its natural resources, with the minerals sector making the greatest contribution to the nation’s exports.

Four of Australia’s states and territories rank in the top 20 mining jurisdictions in the world, according to the Fraser Institute’s latest annual survey of mining companies: Western Australia (fourth), Southern Australia (seventh), Queensland (16th) and the Northern Territory (19th).

These mining jurisdictions demonstrate a high level of investment attractiveness mainly due to their mineral-rich geology, solid infrastructure, stellar economic environment and government support for the resources industry at both the federal and state level.


In the 2018/2019 period, Australia’s minerals exports grew by 26.4 percent over the previous period. Here are the top five most valuable mineral resources exports for the Australian economy; combined they brought in nearly half of Australia’s AU$470 billion worth of exports in the 2018/2019 financial year, as per the most recent data from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

1. Iron ore

Australia is the king of the iron game. US Geological Survey (USGS) information shows it accounted for some 37 percent of global iron production in 2020, well ahead of Brazil in second place. The nation also ranks as the world’s largest exporter of iron ore.

Iron is the definitive base metal, and is used in everything from infrastructure to transportation to advanced technology — meaning Australia and its many iron ore mines in Western Australia have enjoyed a mighty run of economic prosperity as China has leaned into its push for industrialization.

DFAT’s data from 2018/2019 shows that iron ore accounted for over 16 percent of Australia’s total exports in that period, with a value of more than AU$77 billion.

2. Coal

While more western nations around the world are turning away from coal, in Australia the sooty black rock is a source of incredible wealth.

Australia hosts coal deposits across the country, with major operational mines up and down the east coast, including the controversial Carmichael mine in Queensland, which is being developed by India’s Adani Group (BSE:512599,NSE:ADANIENT).

For its part, coal makes up another 15 percent of Australia’s total exports at AU$69.5 billion, with most of it again going to China despite increasingly strict environmental standards. However, simmering political tensions between the two trading partners resulted in China effectively banning Australian coal imports in 2020. And yet, Australia has plenty of other customers as well.

3. Gas

Natural gas is Australia’s third most valuable resource export, earning more than AU$49 billion for the economy with its 10.5 percent share of total exports.

The island continent is home to 14 different basins that yield natural gas. The country has significant natural gas reserves, with much of it locked up in coal seams that require unconventional drilling.

Most of Australia’s natural gas production occurs offshore in the northwest, which has seen an increase in large development projects over the past few years by some of the biggest names in natural gas.

4. Gold

Gold accounted for nearly AU$19 billion in exports in the 2018/2019 financial year in Australia, earning its place as the fourth most valuable mineral export and sixth most valuable export overall.

According to the USGS, Australia produced 320 tonnes of the yellow metal in 2020, making it the second largest gold-producing nation, behind China and ahead of Russia.

Much of Australia’s wealth is founded on gold, with a number of gold rushes triggered in the mid-1800s that supercharged the nation’s development and set it down its path of prosperity through mining. Today most of the top-producing gold mines in the country are located in Western Australia.

5. Aluminium ore

Aluminium ore comes in as the fifth most valuable mineral export from Australia, accounting for 2.3 percent of all exports and earning AU$11.4 billion in 2018/2019. Aluminium is sourced from bauxite, of which Australia has the second largest share of resources in the world.

Aluminium ore is produced from mines in Queensland, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Victoria. Refined aluminium metal earned its own spot in DFAT’s list of valuable exports for the country at 16th. Australia’s refined aluminium industry has been struggling under the weight of heavy energy costs associated with smelter operations for a number of years now.

“Australia is one of the world’s most emissions-intensive aluminium producers,” reports the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. Renewable energy sources may be the answer to saving the country’s aluminium sector.

And the rest

While the five resources above represent the most valuable mineral exports to the Australian economy, the country sits on significant reserves of almost every mineral you can find on the planet. Other major commodities of significant value to the Australian economy are oil, which is the sixth most valuable resource and ninth most valuable export overall, and copper ores and concentrates, which are the seventh most valuable mineral export and 10th overall.

Wondering where uranium and rare earths are on this list? Despite having 30 percent of the world’s reserves, uranium didn’t rate a mention in exports as its three operational mines only produced 6,613 tonnes of uranium in 2019. And while Australia also ranks as the fourth largest producer of rare earths globally, rare earths production did not rate as a major contributor to the Australian economy.

This is an updated version of an article first published by the Investing News Network in 2019.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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Work at the company’s Cancet project is building toward a maiden resource in Q1 2023, said Managing Director Chris Evans.


Although prices have cooled off from the highs seen earlier this year, the lithium market remains in focus and investors are interested in how to get exposure to the green energy transition.

Chris Evans, managing director at Winsome Resources (ASX:WR1), said Australian investors in particular are aware of the lithium opportunity, and reacted well to the company’s ASX listing this past November.

The company initially came to market with three lithium assets in the James Bay region of Quebec, and has since acquired two additional lithium projects in the province.


Speaking to the Investing News Network, Evans explained that Cancet is the company’s main focus. Recent assay results released during the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention build on previous drilling at the property, and have increased the known pegmatite strike length to 1,200 meters from 600 meters.

Looking forward, Evans said that two geological teams are now on the ground at Cancet, and are investigating targets identified through geophysical surveys to figure out which of them require drilling.

Known pegmatites that have already been drilled are also being stripped and cleared so that the company can complete field mapping and decide where to drill next.

“Really all that’s working towards a maiden resource in the first quarter of 2023,” said Evans.

In terms of the overall lithium market, he said a recent Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) report saying the battery metals bull market is “over for now” put a damper on sentiment, but is generally not thought to be a major concern.

“I think that probably initiated a bit of a correction in the market, which may have been needed because lithium prices and stocks were at all-time highs,” he said. “But in terms of an oversupply like Goldman Sachs is predicting, I haven’t heard anyone agree with that since I’ve been here at PDAC.”

Watch the interview above for more from Evans on Winsome Resources and its plans for the next six months. You can also click here for our recap of PDAC, and here for our full PDAC playlist on YouTube.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Charlotte McLeod, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: Winsome Resources is a client of the Investing News Network. This article is not paid-for content.

The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

person using credit card to pay for something on their phone

Revenue from Australia's mobile sector is expected to grow from AU$9.6 billion in 2021 to AU$11.2 billion in 2026. Here's what to know about this industry.

After lagging behind for a prolonged period, Australia's tech sector is ramping up at an accelerated pace. The tech sector is now equivalent to 8.5 percent of the country's GDP as of the end of 2021, an increase of 26 percent since the onset of COVID-19 through June 2021 and a massive 79 percent increase over the past five years. Tech contributes AU$167 billion to the Australian economy, trailing only the mining (AU$205 billion) and financial/insurance (AU$169 billion) sectors.

Australia's characteristically resilient economy — which had not experienced a recession in nearly 30 years prior to COVID-19 lockdowns — has provided a sturdy backdrop for its growing tech sector. The growth in the tech sector’s contribution to the GDP has outpaced average growth of other industries by more than 400 percent, a gain partly attributable to accelerated digital technology adoption during the pandemic.

This dramatic expansion is largely in response to Australia's need to catch up to the rest of the world and assert itself in the global tech marketplace. Should the tech sector continue to grow at its current rate it will eventually surpass the relative GDP contribution of the long dominant mining sector. This will also complete the process of bringing Australia more in line with other western economies such as the UK, and notably Canada, which is comparable to Australia in terms of its dominant mining and agricultural industries.


In terms of digital innovation earnings as a percentage of GDP, for example. Australia stands at 7.4 percent, significantly behind the 11.2 percent average for companies that are part of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). According to its September 2021 Policy Primer report, the Australian Academy of Sciences called for the federal government to place greater emphasis on supporting emerging digital technologies.

"Australia risks falling behind as a technologically-driven nation unless we recognise emerging digital technologies as a central, independent sector in its own right, warranting investment in the core aspects of research, innovation, and workforce development," the report stated.

Understanding Australia's mobile tech landscape

One of the drivers of Australia's tech sector expansion is its booming mobile telephone industry. This expansion has taken many forms ranging from expanded use of mobile telephony, adoption of blockchain technology for supply chain management and the rise of the cryptocurrency market. The application of mobile tech to the banking industry is just one space where mobile usage has become key and is expected to continue developing. According to research firm KPMG, digital platforms will become the preferred and dominant business model form.

Chase Bank completed a survey revealing that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of mobile banking technology. Banking apps allow users to deposit cheques, pay bills and perform transfers from their mobile device.

One critical side effect of COVID-19 has been the way lockdowns and related restrictions on behaviour has changed the way people live and work. Remote working conditions and enforced isolation has triggered increased demand for improved connectivity and internet speeds to facilitate this transition in corporate culture during the pandemic.

As a result, Australia's leading mobile telephony giants have been obliged to improve data capacity and speed, especially in regional areas that have badly lagged behind urban coverage. Some people have relocated to regional areas — where connectivity remains a challenge — and others are requiring more data capacity and fast speeds to allow them to work more efficiently from home.

The Australian mobile sector is dominated by three main players: Telstra (ASX:TLS), Optus — a subsidiary of Singapore-based Singtel (SGX:Z74) — and TPG Telecom (ASX:TPG). Telstra is the largest provider of mobile services with 48.7 percent market share followed by Optus at 26.3 percent.

In 2022, there have already been several major new developments in the Australian mobile sector. One such event has been the tentative network sharing agreement announced in February between Telstra and TPG Telecom, which brings an end to the bitter rivalry between the two competitors. The agreement provides a comprehensive framework for the two telecom giants to share mobile telecommunication infrastructure across Australia.

TPG and Telstra will both enjoy significant savings and benefits from this arrangement. Telstra will reap up to AU$1.8 billion in added revenues while gaining access to TPG's spectrum that expands Telstra's fixed wireless services in regional areas. Correspondingly, TPG gains access to 3,700 Telstra towers in regional areas; this means TPG does not have to spend significant money to duplicate the infrastructure for its own use.

In addition, Telstra announced earlier in the year that it will spend up to AU$1.6 billion on new infrastructure intended to improve connectivity and internet speeds as part of its response to the overall need to accommodate rising consumer demand in the wake of the pandemic.

What's the outlook for mobile tech in Australia?

One of the positive side effects of the pandemic has been the increasing adoption of wireless services by Australians and the ownership of internet-of-things devices that are prevalent in nearly all households.

According to GlobalData, a data and analytics company, mobile sector revenue in Australia is expected to grow from AU$9.6 billion in 2021 to AU$11.2 billion in 2026 at a compound annual growth rate of 3 percent. This revenue growth will mainly accrue from growth in the mobile data subsector.

Meanwhile, the three leading telephone companies will not only be expanding their 4G services but rolling out 5G networks across the country. 5G allows for improved and additional smartphone services and also enhances fixed wireless services that are competitive with higher speed National Broadband Network (NBN) connections.

In addition, low earth orbit satellite services are beginning to roll out in Australia led by Elon Musk's SpaceX's Starlink service that offers broadband connections delivered via its satellite network.

Overfall, the winding down of restrictions due to COVID-19 will likely see the big three companies enjoy higher revenues in 2022 after declines in earnings owing to the pandemic. Telstra, Optus and TPG Telecom all experienced significant earnings drops between 2020 and 2021 due to reduced international roaming fees, softening demand for headsets and ongoing adoption of NBN services.

But the outlook for 2022 is positive given overall improved economic prospects as Australia emerges from the pandemic, which actually increased overall consumer use of communication services in 2021.

Lockdowns resulted in increased consumer uptake of online services such as online shopping, data-intensive video streaming and the additional household usage of communication services. Indeed, in 2021, data traffic reached record highs as Australian consumers demanded improved internet speeds and unlimited data plans. Remote work will likely continue to remain elevated in 2022 and beyond, which should reinforce increased consumption of home communications services.

Telstar and TPG Telecom in particular are embarking on long term strategies that will drive future earnings growth via accelerating 5G adoption, expansion in dark fibre, and increased adoption of new services such as edge/cloud computing.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Harold Von Kursk, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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