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What is the Australian resources sector?

The Australian resources sector is diverse and complex, covering exploration, processing, downstream value adding and refining of a broad range of commodities:

  • The Australian mining sector comprises iron ore, coal, uranium, base metals, gold and other precious metals, diamonds, bauxite and other steel related ores.
  • The oil and gas sector in Australia is also diversifying and includes the extraction of oil and natural gas, coal seam gas and shale gas.

For more information on the types of commodities extracted across Australia, please visit the Australian Mines Atlas:

Value of the Australian resources sector

The resources sector is one of the most important industries in Australia due to its sizeable economic contribution, even though the number of people directly employed in the industry is small relative to most other industries.

In 2011-12, exports of mineral and energy commodities were valued at $187.1 billion (using chain volume measures) accounting for 60 per cent of the total value of Australian exports. Growth has been driven by strong demand from China and India predominantly and it is highly likely that this demand will be sustained in the long term. The growth in resources and energy export earnings over the next five years is forecast to be underpinned by increases in export earnings for most commodities, including liquefied natural gas (LNG), iron ore and thermal coal.  

For the Australian resources sector to realise its full growth potential, it will rely on the key inputs of infrastructure, water and skills.

Resources sector skill requirements

The Australian resources sector is currently in a state of transition with many projects moving from the construction phase to the operations phase. As the sector enters the operations phase, it is likely that companies will continue to experience shortages of highly specialist and experienced skilled workers across a range of occupational areas, including professional, para-professional, trades, technical and operator roles.

According to recent statistics from the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA), the national workforce for mining and oil and gas is likely to increase by 40,000 jobs by 2018. AWPA also note in their report that projected employment growth is expected to be strongest in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and the Darling Downs and Mackay regions of Queensland.

Greater workforce diversity

In order to meet its skilled labour requirements, the industry is committed to attracting, up-skilling and retaining a local workforce. As part of this commitment, companies are broadening their target pools and achieve greater diversity within their workforces. In particular, companies operating in the Australian resources sector are attracting and retaining larger numbers of women and Indigenous Australians.