Australia?s minerals industry recorded a strong performance in 2010, though the year ended with major output disruptions in the coal sector due to severe flooding in Queensland. While recovery in this sector will take many months, and require determined action by companies and all levels of government, the outlook for the minerals industry continues to be positive based on historically strong commodity prices and the prospect of continued demand growth in key Asian markets.

In 2009-10, the value of Australia?s minerals exports was $138 billion. Minerals exports currently account for around half of Australia?s total exports of goods and services with coal and iron ore alone making up one third.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show that mining industry investment (including oil and gas) is at historically high levels and accounted for around 40 per cent of new capital expenditure across all surveyed industries in the September quarter 2010. In the minerals sector specifically, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) reports that advanced projects (those either committed or under construction) totalled $45.2 billion in the six months to October 2010, while less advanced projects have a total potential capital expenditure of $131.2 billion.

Employment in the minerals industry grew to 187,200 in the December quarter 2010, 21 per cent higher than a year earlier. The industry is a key driver of economic activity in regional and remote Australia, accounting for 30 per cent of direct employment in some regions. The industry is the largest source of private sector employment for Indigenous Australians who comprise up to a quarter of employees in certain locations.

The industry?s environmental performance has improved with an increased focus on resource use efficiency, including in relation to energy, water and chemicals. The industry has also taken steps to improve land use planning and management, particularly in areas where operations intersect with agriculture and other industrial sectors. Specific examples of the industry?s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the last 12 months include leadership in the development of the Indigenous Community Development Corporation, a new tax exempt entity to ensure that the benefits of mining agreements accrue for future generations and that distributions support investment in social infrastructure, service delivery and enterprise development.

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