Turn Out the Lights: Australia Calls Commodity Spending Boom End

Australia, an engine room of the decade-long global commodity boom, is forecasting a staggering 90 percent plunge in spending on projects, calling time on its biggest resources bonanza since the 1850s gold rush.

After a collapse in prices from oil to iron ore, the value of Australia’s approved and financed mining and energy projects is forecast fall to about A$15 billion ($12 billion) in 2017, from A$226 billion at the end of April.

Planned iron ore projects worth at least A$10 billion have been canceled since October, according to the Department of Industry and Science. Billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill -- due to ship later this year -- is Australia’s last remaining mining project being developed worth A$5 billion or more.

“The value of committed projects is about to start declining substantially,” Mark Cully, the department’s chief economist, said Wednesday in a statement. “It is clear that this will not be offset by new investments coming through the pipeline.”

Waning demand growth in key markets including China, the biggest commodities consumer, and programs by miners to cut capital expenditure mean there’s a lack of projects toward the end of this decade, the department said in a report.

Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of iron ore and coal and is set to become the No.1 shipper of liquefied natural gas by the end of the decade.

Two Years

It may be at least two years before producers in Australia commit to any new coal developments and longer still before iron ore suppliers contemplate new mine and infrastructure projects, according to UBS Group AG.

Producers are wary over new investments amid the commodity price rout and uncertainty over demand growth for coal to iron ore, Daniel Morgan, a Sydney-based analyst at UBS said by phone.

A slate of $200 billion worth of liquefied natural gas developments are also nearing completion, including Santos Ltd.’s Gladstone and BG Group Plc’s Curtis projects.

After a A$334 billion spree on mining equipment and infrastructure from 2011 to 2014 by companies including BHP Billiton Ltd., the number of resources projects being developed in Australia is “reverting back to pre-investment boom levels,” Cully said.

Australia’s government forecast in its budget this month that mining investment would fall by 26 percent in the year ending June 30, 2016, and slump 31 percent more the year after. The Reserve Bank of Australia cut interest rates to a record low 2 percent as it attempts to foster a pickup in non-mining investment.

Iron ore touched a decade low last month, while crude oil and the London Metals Exchange Index of six metals touched four-year lows this half.

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