Australia Mining Investment Drops – by Robb M. Stewart (Wall Street Journal – May 28, 2014)

MELBOURNE, Australia—The amount of money invested in Australia’s resources industry continued to fall as large projects were completed and mining companies reduced spending.

Money committed by mining and energy companies such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto to start or expand projects fell to 229 billion Australian dollars (US$212 billion) in the six months through April from A$268 billion a year earlier, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics said Wednesday. For the six months through October, the figure was A$240 billion.

The amount fell mainly because more than A$25 billion in minerals-and-energy developments were completed, the agency said. New projects weren’t sufficient to fill the void.

The transition of new projects to the output phase is likely to increase exports of coal, iron ore and other commodities, which resource-rich Australia ships to China, Japan and elsewhere. But it also could weigh on prices as increased supplies enter the global market.

Australian resources companies approved the construction of eight new projects at a combined value of A$12.8 billion, in the latest six months. A year earlier, 21 projects were approved for more than double that amount.

BHP has said that its capital and exploration expenditures will fall 25% globally in the fiscal year through June and again in fiscal 2015, from $21.7 billion in fiscal 2013. The company has pushed on with expansion of operations, however, including iron-ore mining in Western Australia.

Rio Tinto, which also is ramping up iron-ore production in Australia, cut its world-wide capital spending 26% last year to $12.9 billion.

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