There are approximately 400 mines operating in Australia, which include coal (thermal and metallurgical), iron ore, gold, tin, zinc, copper, nickel, uranium and cobalt. To date, the mines have continued to operate through the COVID-19 period and are expected to continue on with minimal interruption. This is partly because of their often remote locations or the fact that some are considered essential to the economy. Queensland and Western Australia have the majority of mining operations, with NSW having mainly coal mining locations.
There is an expectation that mining will be a key industry sector to help drive the Australian economy out of the economic downturn expected during and after the impacts of COVID-19. It is anticipated that proposed and planned mines awaiting government approval will be fast tracked and encouraged to begin operations as soon as possible.
With talk of China coming 'back on-line' demand is expected to increase. Prior to COVID-19, Australia was exporting iron ore, gas and coal to China to the value of around AU$79 billion.
The caveat for the mining sector is that it is impacted by export demand and commodity prices. If demand slides and the prices decline, ores and minerals become less feasible to mine, particularly if operations are underground, as operating costs are very high. Mines can opt to stop mining or reduce output until prices recover.