Oz mining boom tipped to peak in 2014

The Australian mining boom - or at least investment in it - will peak in 2014, but the non-resources sector will then drive growth, a report has found.

People would probably overreact with pessimism at the thought of the boom ending, but mining investment would underpin activity for a few years yet, said economic forecasters BIS Shrapnel.

The magnitude of downturn in mining would determine the impact on the rest of the economy, which needed to start investing more, the report said.

The cancellation, for now, of the massive US$20 billion plus Olympic Dam mine expansion by BHP Billiton and falls in the price of iron ore to three-year lows had the market and politicians proclaiming the death of the mining boom last week.

Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens chimed in, saying the peak of the resource investment boom as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) was set to occur.

However, there were three years of projects already under way in Western Australia, and five years in Queensland, said BIS Shrapnel chief economist Dr Frank Gelber.

"Don't panic. Mining investment will continue to grow, albeit more slowly, for a few years yet," he said.

"Despite any weakening in investment, mining remains extremely profitable, with strong production in prospect.

"The current media discussion is about mining investment, which is stimulating investment-related activity in design, construction, equipment and business services, and adding significantly to our capacity to produce commodities."

Those sentiments were also made last week by mining executives, such as Fortescue Metals' Nev Power, who said the bubble in pricing would be replaced by high resource volumes and exports.

BIS Shrapnel is forecasting continued high commodity prices and a high Australia dollar, keeping the pressure on trade-exposed industries.

However, it argues most of the economy isn't affected adversely by the currency.

The housing market and building industry was set to pick up due to stock shortages, population growth, and lower interest rates.

Retail trade was recovering, supported by the low interest rates.

However, the high Australian dollar, rising production costs, and weakness in key international markets would continue to weigh heavily on the majority of manufacturing industries.

Business and financial services firms would lose mining-related investment, but gain from strengthening elsewhere, as would other services industries.

The telecommunications sector was also set to get a boost as it invested to take advantage of the National Broadband Network, creating jobs.

Output growth in the electricity, gas and water industries should also remain subdued as businesses and consumers continue to look for ways to reduce their energy usage as rising costs bite.


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