Iron ore dominates mineral exports

A rampant Australian dollar failed to stop WA's mining industry shipping a record $106 billion in commodities last financial year, according to official figures, but recent savage swings in iron ore prices may mean the record stands for some time.

The WA Department of Mines and Petroleum annual digest, released yesterday, showed that iron ore dominated the rankings for the year ended June 2012.

As for previous years, it was the State's most valuable commodity, accounting for $61.1 billion or 75 per cent of total mineral sales in 2011-12, followed by gold with $9.4 billion.

However, the rosy picture was clouded by a small 2.4 per cent increase in the value of oil and gas products to $23.8 billion. A sharp drop in global oil prices and a stubbornly high Australian dollar - which reduces export earnings - were factors.

The report didn't pick up the savage slump and rebound in iron ore prices in the second half of last year, which analysts said would likely impact on the totals for 2012-13.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said the industry had delivered a bumper royalty revenue stream to WA taxpayers, and that the Government had streamlined approvals.

"WA directly benefited from the $5.3 billion paid in royalties to the State Government in 2011-12, which is ultimately used to fund crucial areas such as education, health and infrastructure," he said in a statement.

Mineral exploration also increased to a record $2.1 billion, which was a jump of 32 per cent on levels a year ago, and 150 per cent higher than five years ago. About 70 per cent of this spending flowed to existing "brownfield" precincts.

However, reflecting a glut of natural gas projects in WA, petroleum exploration expenditure dropped by 12 per cent, as companies swung their focus to existing projects. DIGGING DEEP 975 The number of operating mines in Western Australia

The West Australian

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