Increased output overcomes falling prices to spur export earnings

EXPORT revenue from mining and energy will hit a record $209 billion in the coming financial year, as a wave of new resources projects click into gear, an official forecaster says.

EXPORT revenue from mining and energy will hit a record $209 billion in the coming financial year, as a wave of new resources projects click into gear, an official forecaster says.

Despite commodity price falls in recent months, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics said yesterday a rapid expansion of iron ore, liquefied natural gas and coal output would drive higher export earnings.

The bureau's chief economist, Quentin Grafton, said the forecasts assumed some slowing in China and Europe but increased output would make up for any price falls.

"The continued increase in Australia's minerals and energy export earnings will be underpinned by strong growth in export volumes, particularly for iron ore and LNG following the completion of a number of projects," Professor Grafton said.

Shipments of iron ore - the nation's most lucrative export - are forecast to jump 10 per cent to 510 million tonnes a year, earning miners $67 billion in 2012-13.

The value of liquefied natural gas exports is expected to surge almost 30 per cent in a year, to $16 billion, as output from Woodside's Pluto plant increases.

And a wave of investment in new coalmines is also expected to boost coal export volumes 13 per cent, raising $48 billion in export revenue.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, seized on the figures to justify the mining tax, which will start on Sunday and is opposed by the Coalition.

"These strong figures are yet another sign that Tony Abbott's chicken little hysteria is becoming more laughable by the day," Mr Swan said.

If all the resources investment on the drawing board goes ahead, output in the sector is expected to continue climbing for years to come.

The LNG industry this week predicted Australia could soon become the world's second largest exporter of the fuel, with eight projects under way across the economy.

While most of the big miners and energy companies are foreign owned, economists say the export surge will benefit Australia by contributing to economy-wide growth.

The chief economist at JP Morgan, Stephen Walters, said commodity prices were likely to fall in future years because of the wave of mining investment taking place.

"It will drive prices down because pretty much every country with natural resources is putting in new supply," he said.

While weaker commodity prices would drag on growth, he said the increased volumes would provide the economy with a more stable and sustainable source of growth than relying on prices rising.

A weaker outlook for commodity prices has caused the ASX index of mining stocks to slump about 15 per cent over the past three months, more than double the fall in the ASX 200 over the same period.

Despite the market jitters, Professor Grafton noted the prices of Australian exports remained well above historic levels.

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