The Wealth of Australias Mineral and Fuel Resources

By any measure, Australia is one of the world’s wealthiest countries in mineral and fuel resources. Mining contributes around 5.6% to Australia’s gross domestic product, and minerals make up 35% of Australia’s exports. Within its lands lie the world’s largest zinc, lead, nickel, uranium, and brown coal supplies. It is also the world’s largest producer of bauxite, (aluminum ore) with one-third of the world’s share, producing sixty-four million tonnes in 2007. Furthermore, Australia leads the world in iron ore, diamonds, coal, lead, diamonds, rutile, zinc and zirconium exports. It is also the second largest exporter of uranium, and third largest exporter of gold in the world. Silver, opals, oil shale, petroleum, and natural gas are also in abundance in Australia. China is the largest buyer of Australian iron ore, consuming more than one half of Australia’s iron ore exports.

Coal is mined from every state in Australia, and in the Northern Territory as well. Most is exported to Asian countries, such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Only 25% is used locally for electricity production. In 2000/01, 258.5 million tonnes of coal was mined, and 193.6 million tonnes exported. This makes it Australia’s largest export commodity. An estimated 77 billion tonnes of coal reserves are remaining. Coal fired power stations provide around 85% of Australia’s electricity production. Australian coal is highly regarded worldwide, due to many sources containing higher energy contents, and lower quantities of nitrogen and sulfur.

Australia has 40% of the world’s uranium ore reserves, and currently contributes 22.8% of the world’s concentrated uranium ore supply. Olympic Dam Mine in South Australia is the world’s largest single uranium deposit. Uranium is only a a small player in this mines total revenue, as gold, silver, and copper are also mined from Olympic Dam. Almost all uranium mined is exported, to members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to prevent its use in nuclear weapons.

Australia has about 10% of the world’s gold resources, and accounts for 11% of the world output. The top gold-producing mine in Australia is the Super Pit in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. This huge open cut mine is currently 3.5 km long, 1.5 km long, and 360 m deep. Known as the Golden Mile, 1550 tonnes of gold has come from this mining area since 1893. It is estimated that on average, gold to the amount of a golf ball size is extracted from every single truck load of rubble extracted from the pit.