Resources set to fuel WA boom

IT’S boom time for WA’s mineral and energy sector.

Sales have risen to record $21.3 billion for 1999-00, according to the Department of Minerals and Energy.

The record figure was fuelled by an 88 per cent rise in the value of petroleum sales, up about $3.6 billion to $7.6 billion.

There are forecasts of even stronger performances by the sector during the next four years.

THE WA Mineral and energy sector set a record in 1999-00 with sales rising 27.7 per cent to nearly $21.3 billion, according to advance release statistics from the Department of Minerals and Energy.

Industry observers are forecasting even stronger results over the next four years – despite the lowest mineral exploration level in seven years.

The past year’s result compared with an average annual growth rate of 6.4 per cent over the past decade.

The overall increase is mainly due to an 88 per cent rise in the value of petroleum sales – up about $3.6 billion to $7.6 billion.

This pushed the share of petroleum in the total value of production from around 22 per cent in 1990-91 to 25 per cent in 1998-99 and 37 per cent in 1999-00.

The next best sector, iron ore, sold $3.7 billion worth of output in 1999-00 but its share of total production value fell from 24 per cent to 18 per cent over the past year.

The strong recovery in oil prices and the drop in the Australian dollar were the main reasons behind the strong showing of the petroleum sector.

Prices rose from a low of US$9.50 in early February 1999 to a peak of US$31.74 per barrel in late June.

The alumina and diamond sector also both broke records, registering sales increases of 12 and 15 per cent respectively.

Nickel sales increased 103 per cent to $1.8 billion, while the value of base metal sales increased 43 per cent to $332 million for the period.

Westpac’s second half 2000 Commodity Report points to above average forecasted world economic growth as the cause for continued optimism in the sector.

Westpac’s minerals and energy economist Keith Huggan said the main risk for mineral markets was if the US economy could manage a transition to more sustainable growth without precipitating a downturn in the world economy.

Mines Minister Norman Moore said the 1999-00 results confirmed that the mineral and petroleum sector was the cornerstone of the State’s economy, responsible for over 30 per cent of gross state product.

Mr Moore said he hoped the strong showing would encourage more mineral exploration in WA.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for the March quarter showed that, WA expenditure on mineral exploration was the lowest in seven years.

Exploration expenditure was $85 million during µthe quarter – down 16 per cent on the corresponding1999 quarter.

WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy economist Charles Crouch said Native Title laws were a big deterrent to further exploration.

Mr Crouch said the number of exploration licences awaiting approval was about 10,000 while six years ago, before the Native Title legislation was in place, the number was virtually nil.

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