By Amy Coopes, AFP
SYDNEY — Australia’s resources minister on Thursday declared the nation’s mining boom “over” after BHP Billiton delayed a major project as China’s easing and European woes hit commodity prices. “You’ve got to understand, the resources boom is over. We’ve done well — AU$270 billion (US$283.6 billion) in investment — the envy of the world,” Martin Ferguson told ABC radio. “It has got tougher in the last six to 12 months. Look at Europe, the state of the European and global economy. Think about the difficulties in China. “The commodity price boom is over and anyone with half a brain knows that.” Analysts have warned of growing headwinds in Australia due to the commodity slowdown, with Deutsche Bank this week saying the mining-powered economy was at risk of slipping into recession in 2013 as the value of its exports tanks. Australia’s central bank expects mining and energy-related spending to peak sometime in 2013-14, quicker than expected, due to global uncertainty. Prime Minister Julia Gillard was grilled on Ferguson’s comments in Parliament, with the opposition seizing on them as proof that Canberra’s return to a budget surplus in 2013 as planned was at risk. But Gillard insisted that mining would continue to buoy Australia’s economy, with projects worth hundreds of billions of dollars yet to come online, despite commodity prices appearing to have peaked.
“We will continue to see this nation earn a great deal of prosperity and wealth from exporting resources,” she told lawmakers. “We will continue to see billions of dollars invested in our resources sector, we will continue to see the opening of new projects and we will continue to see investment decisions made. “The mining boom, the amount we are earning from exporting mining, will be with us for a long time to come.”