With the release of the latest Federal Budget there have been fewer changes than expected, with small business and middle income tax payers the big winners, but how will it affect the mining sector?
The outlook, broadly for the industry, isn’t overly favourable with mining investment expected to fall by 27.5 per cent in 2015-16 and 25.5 per cent in 2016-17, as the industry still reels from the downturn.
Mining itself has also dealt a major blow to budget estimates, being directly blamed for a shortfall in expectations.
“The largest contributor to the expected forecast error in 2015-16 is from the shortfall in company tax. In 2015-16, company tax is estimated to be $3.5 billion (5.1 per cent) lower than expected in the 2015-16 Budget. This is primarily driven by the fall in commodity prices in recent years, lowering profitability in the mining sector,” the budget papers stated.
Yet the government is pinning forecasts for the domestic economy using what may be inflated spot prices.
It has forecast a spot price of US$55 per tonne for iron ore, a rise from previous estimates of US$39 per tonne; US$91 per tonne for coking coal compared to US$73 per tonne in the last budget; and US$52 per tonne for thermal coal, which remains unchanged from previous budget estimates.
Despite this negative forecast – or because of it – the government is stepping in to build a new foundation for the next wave of mining.
The resources industry has been supported by the federal Government with one of the largest major national initiatives, a program designed to reinvigorate exploration.
The National Resources Development Strategy – Exploring for the Future, is a $100.5 million program designed to boost productivity and competiveness of the sector.
“The 2016-17 Budget delivers a strong boost to the productivity and competitiveness of this sector with $100 million provided to Geoscience Australia for mapping mineral, energy and groundwater potential in northern Australia and South Australia,” national minister for resources and energy Josh Frydenberg said.
According to the government, “The $100 million Exploring for the Future programme will produce pre-competitive geoscience data, to be released on an annual basis over the next four years. Geoscience Australia estimates that around 80 per cent of Australia remains under-explored, in particular, areas in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia, which will be the focus of this initiative. This will improve Australia’s long term exploration prospects and help address declining new onshore exploration.”
Frydenberg added: “The benefits for doing so are clear. In 1996, Geoscience Australia undertook $3 million of analysis in the Browse Basin. This helped identify the Ichthys field, which will produce more than $70 billion in export earnings over the next forty years.”
“Further, data compiled across South Australia in the 1960s, costing around $350,000, helped identify the resource potential of the Olympic Dam and ultimately to the discovery of ore more than 300 metres underground,” he said.
“At a challenging time for the resources sector, this important initiative will help ensure that Australia’s strength in innovation is furthered, and that we maintain our competitive edge in this world-leading sector.”
The initiative was welcomed by mining lobby groups.
The Minerals Council of Australia called it a “strong pro-growth budget”.
“It balances a careful approach to spending, the maintenance of a strict approach to tax integrity and lays out a medium term plan to promote investment and growth,” Minerals Council chief executive Brendan Pearson said.
“The minerals sector welcomes the Government’s commitment to a $100.5 million initiative over four years to produce mineral, petroleum and groundwater resource data in targeted areas in northern Australia and South Australia to help identify new greenfield exploration sites.
“This is a critical investment to identify the next sources of Australia’s minerals wealth.”
The Queensland Resources Council echoed the Minerals Council, stating “it is pleasing the Turnbull Government has an eye to high-tech jobs of the future in the resources sector”.
“Exploration is the R&D, or building blocks, for the resources sector, getting the sector ready for the inevitable future upswing,” QRC chief Michael Roche said.
However, greener mining initiatives have been scrapped in the new budget, with the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund and the Coal Mining Technology Abatement Support Package closed, while the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships funding has been reduced.