Battery minerals help drive resources exports to new records
Australia’s annual mining and energy exports revenues are forecast to deliver a 26% increase in export earnings, up from $320 billion in 2020-21 to an estimated $405 billion this financial year, buoyed by surging prices for battery metals including lithium, cobalt and nickel due to the rapid uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) and battery-based energy storage systems.
The Department of Industry, Science and Resources said the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a surge in the price and export value of many of Australia’s resource and energy commodities over the past three months.
Data published in the June 2022 Resources and Energy Quarterly (REQ) shows that commodities such as lithium, nickel and copper, which are critical for EVs, batteries and the transition to cleaner energy, have achieved record high prices in the past financial year. Combined export earnings of lithium, nickel and copper are estimated to have reached about $23 billion in 2021–22, an increase of 39% from 2020–21.
The value of lithium exports, being driven by surging global EV sales, which doubled to 6.6 million in 2021, are estimated to have reached $4.1 billion in 2021–22 and are forecast to more than double to $9.4 billion in 2023–24.
Australia’s copper export earnings are also projected to lift, up an average 9.3% a year from $11 billion in 2020–21 to $15 billion in 2023–24. Nickel export earnings are estimated at $6.7 billion in 2021–22 but are expected to moderate to $5.7 billion in 2023–24.
Overall, the REQ report forecasts Australia’s resources and energy export earnings to hit a record $405 billion in 2021–22 and are expected to climb to an estimated $419 billion in 2022–23. Export earnings are expected to ease to about $338 billion in 2023–24 as improving global supply pushes commodity prices back to more normal levels.
Australia’s Resources Minister Madeleine King said the fallout from Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine had cut global supply and boosted global prices, but Australia has remained a stable and reliable source of resources and energy.
“Australia’s resources and energy sector continues to underpin Australia’s economy and to support international energy security during the global turbulence caused largely by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” she said.
King said iron ore exports continue to be the strongest performer, although prices have eased since the peak in mid-2021. Total iron ore export earnings are estimated at about $133 billion in 2021–22, reflecting a rebound from cutbacks in China’s steel industry in the second half of 2021.
At the same time, earnings from Australia’s LNG exports are estimated to more than double from 2020–21, to reach $70 billion in 2021–22.
The REQ reports that Australian coal export earnings are also estimated to have more than doubled from the previous year to around $100 billion in 2021–22.
The $405 billion estimate for the 2021–22 financial year is down from the March 2022 REQ forecast of $425 billion, due to flooding and weather disruptions in Australia coupled with ongoing COVID-19 issues with Australia’s workforce and shutdowns in China.
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