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Australian resource boom not to go bust due to China

Updated: 2014-01-13 09:42
( Xinhua)

SYDNEY - They said the party was over, but Australia's giant resources sector is surging into a two-horse race between iron ore and coal, with the latest numbers revealing that there is still fire in the belly of the boom, thanks mainly to sustained growth in China.

A key resources index showed that the resource-rich island nation will reap over $21 billion from iron ore exports in the last quarter of 2013, suddenly outstripping the export revenues of coal by more than double.

The latest East & Partners' iron ore and coal index released this week revealed that falling thermal and coking coal revenues ( hitting $10.1 billion in Q4 2013) belie a solid rise in exports and continued interest from shrewd Chinese players.

Based largely on industry collations and state government data, the report estimates 151.5 million tons of iron ore was exported in Q4 2013, a leap of 20.9 percent on volume in the previous corresponding period.

And while iron ore prices win the big profits, coal could be the turtle to the hare in a race that is as much about distance as speed.

The welcome news comes as several Australian coal juniors look set to lead a long-term revival under the tutelage of Chinese energy giants looking for durable partners with a five-to-ten year outlook full of stamina.

This week, China Kingho Energy sweetened its already generous $71.2 million play for Bowen Basin based Carabella Resources.

Chinese enterprises with solid backing and experience are looking further afield and have traditionally taken a long-term view of coal opportunities with viable projects down the line.

Kingho brings an interest in metallurgical coal and Carabella is one of the few listed ASX coal "juniors" with solid exposure, through its Grosvenor West project, to attractive hard-coking coal.

Enthusiasm for Chinese led integration and investment is growing across the sector, particularly among coal juniors looking for partners to expedite technological conversion.

Michael Johnson, director of QE Innovations, a coal and mining technology outfit, based in the coal rich regions of NSW, told Xinhua that the industry in Australia is now at an optimal setting.

"The investment in Australian coal is timely and terrific news for the sector," Johnson said.

"Coal may be lagging behind its big brother (iron ore) for the moment, but it has played such a key part of Australia's historical economy, that we can safely say this is the one resource with genuine staying power."

Certainly, mining giant BHP Billiton (Mitsubishi Alliance) extracted 45 million tons of coal from just the Bowen Basin in the last financial year.

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