More mining projects will be deferred as the nation leaves the heady days of the resources boom behind, Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford predicts.
Mr Clifford, the former chief executive of mining giant Rio Tinto, said the atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding future resources projects had developed while governments struggled to agree on key infrastructure proposals.
"Projects that are committed will be completed, but undoubtedly more projects will be deferred," Mr Clifford told the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies conference in Perth today.
"The heady days are behind us."
His comments come after iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group announced it will cut jobs and defer $US1.6 billion ($A1.57 billion) in spending on expansion plans in response to rapidly falling iron ore prices.
Mr Clifford said there was some anxiety about where deferred projects would leave the resources sector and the national economy.
"From my experience, the industry has a tendency to underestimate the extent of the peaks and the troughs," he said.
The current phase of transition and uncertainty in the resources industry offered an opportunity to identify national priorities.
In a high cost, low price environment there had to be a premium on efficiency, he said.
Mr Clifford added there was little consensus between levels of government and industry on infrastructure priorities.
"Our urban infrastructure does not compare well with the major cities of the Asia Pacific," he said.
While economic circumstances had changed, a tight focus was needed to identify infrastructure projects that stacked up.
"Private industry will have to step up to fill the funding gaps of roads, power generation and other economic infrastructures," he said.
"Politicians will have to be honest about what they can build and governments will have to adapt to the financing requirements of the market and the public will need to become more accepting of user-pays models."Mr Clifford said Australia was still in an ideal position to capitalise on the Asian century but he noted that the minerals sector had lost market share in all commodities except iron ore over the past decade.
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