Mining and Resources Industry Employment in Australia
Mining in Australia is a significant primary industry and contributor to the Australian economy. Historically, mining booms have also encouraged immigration to Australia. Many different ores and minerals are mined throughout the country.
Mining has had a substantial environmental impact in some areas of Australia. Although mining services, equipment and technology are being exported, the mining sector employs 2.2% of the total labour force.
Australia has mining activity in all of its states and territories. Particularly significant areas today include the Goldfields, Peel and Pilbara regions of Western Australia, the Hunter Region in New South Wales, the Bowen Basin in Queensland and Latrobe Valley in Victoria and various parts of the outback. Places such as Kalgoorlie, Mount Isa, Mount Morgan, Broken Hill and Coober Pedy are known as mining towns.
Large quantities of minerals and resources are extracted in Australia.
Much of the raw material mined in Australia is exported overseas to countries such as China for processing into refined product. Energy and minerals constitute two thirds of Australia’s total exports to China, and more than half of Australia’s iron ore exports are to China.
A number of large multinational mining companies including BHP Billiton, Newcrest, Rio Tinto, Alcoa, Chalco, Shenhua (a Chinese mining company), Alcan and Xstrata operate in Australia. There are also a lot of small mining and mineral exploration companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). Overall, the resources sector represents almost 20% of the ASX market by capitalisation, and almost one third of the companies listed.
Mining contributes about 5.6% of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product. This is up from only 2.6% in 1950, but down from over 10% at the time of federation in 1900. In contrast, mineral exports contribute around 35% of Australia’s exports. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal (35% of international trade), iron ore, lead, diamonds, rutile, zinc and zirconium, second largest of gold and uranium, and third largest of aluminium. Japan was the major purchaser of Australian mineral exports in the mid-1990s.
Despite its export importance, the mining sector employs only a small proportion of the workforce – roughly 129,000 Australians, representing only about 2.2% of the total labour force.