Mineral exports climb in March despite pandemic

Piles of iron ore at Cape Lambert, Pilbara. Source: Rio Tinto

Solid growth in mineral exports during March has guided Australia’s trade surplus to a record $10.6 billion in seasonally adjusted terms.

The result was also helped by lower imports due to coronavirus-affected supply chains.

The latest export data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicates that metal ore and mineral exports increased by 32 per cent, or around $2.8 billion in March.

Other mineral fuel exports increased by 10 per cent, or $485 million, with coal, coke and briquette exports increasing by 6 per cent ($274 million).

Total resources and energy exports increased by nearly 34 per cent in March compared with the previous month.

Australia’s Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said exports were also up by 2 per cent in the first quarter over the same period last year and were valued at $68.9 billion.

“Iron-ore remains the star performer of the sector following a 36 per cent monthly increase during March worth $8.9 billion for the month, a 47 per cent increase on last year,” he said.

“While coal exports increased in March by 15.3 per cent, it is down by a similar amount on last year, which is an indication of some of the challenges the Covid-19 has forced on the sector.”

Total coal exports in the first quarter were down by 17.9 per cent on the same period last year, but were still valued at $13.7 billion.

“A decline in steel manufacturing in countries like India and Japan has seen demand for our metallurgical coal fall but it should begin to recover as the global economy shifts back into gear,” Pitt said.

“The next three months will bring some challenges but it is clear that resources and energy exports will be a key driver of our post Covid-19 recovery.”

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