Iron ore export revenue soars, coal prices fading

Australia will earn over $21 billion from iron ore exported in the last quarter of 2013 with the steelmaking ingredient set to make more than double the revenue of coal.

According to forecasts by East & Partners' iron ore and coal index, Australia will earn $US21.9 billion ($24.5bn) from soaring iron ore exports during the last three months of 2013, compared with falling thermal and coking coal revenues of $US10.1bn.

Based on figures from export ports and government data, the report shows 151.5 million tonnes of iron ore was exported in Q4 2013, a rise of 20.9 per cent on volume in the previous corresponding period.

With the iron prices stable at around $US136 a tonne during the period, the report states that Australian ports continued to surpass iron ore shipment records.

It said this was a clear indication that Chinese steel demand, inventory levels and pricing changes will not impact headline capacity.

While the volume of coal shipments was also higher, lower prices are expected to put a strain on revenue.

Thermal Coal shipments are reported to have risen 3.1 per cent to 50.1 million tonnes but revenue has fallen half a per cent to $US4.02bn.

While metallurgical coal exports were 3.3 per cent higher to 44.1 million tonnes.

However a lower price of $US140 a tonne will cause revenue to fall 1.6 per cent to $US6.1bn.

Senior markets analyst Martin Smith said the latest forecasts are promising for both the iron ore and coal industry as it shifts from capital expenditure to capacity and efficiency improvements.

"The majority of industry analysts expected growing iron ore stockpiles and declining Chinese economic growth to drag on iron ore prices, however, this has not eventuated," Smith said.

As Australian Mining reported last year, Australia’s iron ore miners have added over $65 billion to their value over the last financial year as the crash in iron prices failed to materialise.

The shares of iron miners have jumped as a result, with both big-ticket companies and medium producers reaping the rewards.

And with Chinese growth, infrastructure projects and urbanisation set to continue, forecasters say supply constraints would help keep the resource stable.

Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Andrew Harding said the company is confident about the long-term prospects of iron ore and by adding tonnes Rio will be able to capture a greater share of demand.

In December the company announced plans to spend more than $400 million to expand its iron ore production to 360 million tonnes a year by 2017.

The other major iron ore miners BHP and FMG are also planning expansions after predictions that China will require a billion tonnes of iron ore by 2030.

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