Top 15 Mining Companies in Australia
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Mining is the largest contributor to the Australian economy.
Mining contributes up to 10% of Australia’s GDP, as per the estimates for the year 2021-22.
Not only a cornerstone for the domestic economy, but the Australian mining industry is also one of the world’s leading producers of many minerals. (Source: S&PGlobal)
Have you been wondering what the top mining companies in Australia are?
How many employees do they have?
What is their market cap?
Who are the CEOs of these companies?
Well, in this blog, we’ll answer all of your queries regarding the top 15 mining companies in Australia.
But before getting to the list of companies, let me present to you some facts which will give you an idea as to why Australia is literally a gold mine of minerals and has some of the world’s largest mining companies.
Australia is the world’s largest producer of lithium and uranium.
Not just that, it is among the top 5 global producers of gold, iron core, lead zinc, and nickel.
Overall, Australia is the fourth-largest mining country in the world.
In 2021 alone, the exploration budget in Australia’s mining sector was $1.90 billion.
In terms of the extent of mining activity, there are more than 350 mining sites across the country. Most of these mines are located in Western Australia (WA). (Source: ITA)
Other than Western Australia, Queensland (QLD) and New South Wales (NSW) are the primary sites for mining activity in the country.
The mining activity in Australia started in 1851 with the famous gold rush, when gold was found for the first time in NSW. Following the discovery, within weeks, gold was also discovered in Victoria, soon making it the wealthiest colony in Australia.
As you can imagine, mining plays a crucial role in the Australian economy, contributing not only to GDP but also to employment and socio-economic growth.
With a total value of $270 billion, it contributed 62% of Australia’s total exports in 2020.
Australia has some of the world’s largest mining companies, bringing a wealth of socio-economic development to the communities near the exploration sites. (Source: Wikipedia)
Let’s now look at the list of the top 15 mining companies in Australia with their essential details.
BHP Group Limited
Market Capitalization: US$ 162.43 billion
Number of Employees: 80,000
Year of Inception: 1885
Company CEO: Mike Henry
BHP Group Limited is at the top of the ASX-200 index with a whopping 162.43 billion AUD market cap.
BHP is a multinational mining, metals, and natural gas petroleum company and in 2017, it became the world’s largest mining company by market capitalization.
BHP – an acronym for Broken Hill Proprietary Company – was founded in 1885 in NSW. The present BHP Group, however, went through several mergers and acquisitions in the recent past.
In 2017, BHP was marked as the world’s largest mining company. (Source: Statista)
Subsequently, in 2020, Forbes listed BHP Group as the 93rd-largest public company in the world. (Source: Forbes)
With the growing world focus on renewable energies and awareness against climate change, being a natural gas petroleum company may not be the best bet for a company as large as BHP.
Going through the company’s self-projection on its official portals, one can see that it is now branding itself as a “resource” company rather than a mining or petroleum company.
Considering the evolving demands of the future market, BHP’s explorations now focus on copper for renewable energy; Nickel for electric vehicles; Iron ore, and Metallurgical coal for global infrastructure and energy transition.
“The future is clear, and it’s happening now. With a strong foundation of safety and performance, we’re focused on the essential commodities the world needs to decarbonise and sustainably develop.”
Rio Tinto Group
Market Capitalization: AU$ 175.44 billion
Number of Employees: 45,000
Year of Inception: 1873
Company CEO: Jakob Stausholm
Rio Tinto is the world’s 2nd largest mining company after BHP. It is an Anglo-Australian multinational company with its headquarters located both in London, England, as well as in Melbourne, Australia. (Source: The Telegraph)
It is listed on both London Stock Exchange and Australian Securities Exchange.
The company currently ranks 15 in the ASX-200 index but is among the ten largest employers in Australia.
Apart from the extraction of minerals, the company also deals in refining Bauxite and Iron ore.
Like BHP, Rio Tinto Group’s business is also prone to the sensitivities of the future market regarding carbon emissions and their effects on climate change.
It is one of the reasons the company is in the process of redefining its future ambitions and business orientation.
It is encouraging to note that the company has publicly announced its efforts to contribute towards reducing carbon emissions. The company is investing in new technologies – from zero-carbon aluminium smelting to using renewable hydrogen in alumina refining; to cross-sector partnerships to develop zero-carbon trucks. (Official Website)
Another shift involves developing solar and wind power to replace gas for the fixed plants and infrastructure at their iron ore operations in Pilbara.
A positive development from a global leader in mining, won’t you agree?
The company’s plans also include Investing in green energy solutions. It has recently announced a partnership with Queensland Government to develop central Queensland into an industrial and advanced manufacturing hub.
This collaboration aims to deliver a sustainable future for the area by fast-tracking renewables and attracting new green industries.
“We must switch to renewables at scale, electrify everything we can electrify, work across our entire value chain and accelerate the development of new technology.”
Fortescue Metals Group Limited
Market Capitalization: AU$ 67.12 billion
Number of Employees: 11,000
Year of Inception: 2003
Company CEO: Mrs Fiona Hick
Fortescue Metals Group Limited (FMG) is an iron ore company currently the world’s fourth-largest iron ore producer since 2017. (Source: Mining Connection)
The company owns a massive 87,000 km2 in Western Australia, making it a more significant tenement holder than BHP and Rio Tinto combined!
The company claims to be one of the world’s lowest-cost iron ore producers. With an annual shipping rate of 180 million tonnes, it has delivered 1.7 billion tonnes of iron ore to its customers worldwide. (Source: Company’s official website)
Despite specialising in iron ore, the company has not limited itself to one metal only and has also embarked upon a diversification plan.
In 2017, the company announced the beginning of the early-stage and low-cost exploration of copper, gold, and lithium.
The exploration rights were granted in three regions
- South Australia
- New South Wales
Expanding further, the company announced the creation of Fortescue Future Industries in 2020 to produce energy in various countries based on solar technology.
In the same spirit, the company is about to complete a hydrogen-manufacturing facility in Aldoga, Queensland, which is expected to be the largest of its kind in the world. (Source: ABC News)
“As one of the world’s largest iron ore producers, Fortescue’s wholly owned and integrated operations in the Pilbara include the Chichester, Solomon and Western mining hubs. Our mining infrastructure is connected to the five-berth Herb Elliott Port and Judith Street Harbour towage facility in Port Hedland via the fastest heavy haul railway in the world.”
Newcrest Mining Limited
Market Capitalization: 19.81 billion
Number of Employees: 10,000
Year of Inception: 1966
Company CEO: Sandeep Biswas
Although number 4 on the list of top mining companies in Australia based on its market cap, Newcrest is the largest gold producer in Australia.
Not just in Australia, but it is one of the world’s largest gold producers.
The company is involved in the complete process of gold production, i.e., from its exploration, development, and mining to its sale. Along with gold, it also produces gold-copper concentrate.
The history of Newcrest Mining began in 1966 when it was a subsidiary of the Newmont Mining corporation.
The current name and portfolio came in 1990 when it acquired 100% of Australian Holdings Ltd.
In the past 15 years, the company boasts of a near-perfect track record of significant discoveries. During this period, it discovered deposits at Cadia hill, Cadia East, Ridgeway, Gosowong, and the O’Callaghans tungsten and base metals deposit. (Source: Newcrest)
Newcrest’s emphasis on developing efficient mining means is one of the vital factors for the company’s success. The company invests a lot in strategic research and development of underground bulk-mining technologies, from early concept studies to full-scale trials.
Thanks to their R&D investment, the company uses efficient mining methods for large ore bodies and selective underground mining methods to optimise epithermal and porphyry deposits.
As far as the company’s current prospects are concerned, it owns and operates a portfolio of predominantly low-cost, long-life mines and a strong pipeline of brownfields and greenfield exploration projects.
These reserves and resource base is strong enough to allow for 24 years of production at current rates.
The company’s operating mines are in Australia, Canada, and Papua New Guinea.
“Our sustainability approach ensures our continued focus and deliberate action to help shape a positive future for people, communities and society.”
Market Capitalization: AU$ 19.43 billion
Number of Employees: 14,000
Year of Inception: 2015
Company CEO: Graham Kerr
South32 is a globally diversified mining and metals company.
That means the company has not restricted itself to one or two metals exploration but has a highly diversified portfolio of 10 commodities.
Here is the list of all these commodities:
- Metallurgical coal
Diversification is not just limited to commodities alone. The company is listed on three stock exchanges: the Australian Securities Exchange and the London and the Johannesburg Stock Exchanges.
South32 was split from BHP Billiton in 2015 to allow for better management and growth strategies.
The company operates in Australia, South Africa, Mozambique, Colombia, and the US.
One of the defined exploration strategies of the company includes early-stage exploration. The centrality of this strategy allows the company to reshape and improve its portfolio to create long-term value.
Refocusing its exploration strategy in the wake of climate action, the company is increasing its exposure to the metals critical to a low-carbon future.
“We are actively increasing our exposure to the metals critical to a low-carbon future. In addition, we are building our pipeline of opportunities by investing through the drill bit. We currently have more than 25 active exploration programs around the world.”
Mineral Resources Limited
Market Capitalization: AU$ 15.85 billion
Number of Employees: 3000+
Year of Inception: 1992
Company CEO: Mike Grey
Mineral Resources Limited (MinRes) is a mining services company formed in 1993 as PIHA Pty Limited.
PIHA was a manufacturing and contracting business with expertise in constructing pipelines and site infrastructure within the mining industry.
In 1998, the company was awarded the world’s most extended underground slurry pipeline contract, known as the Century Zinc Slurry Pipeline contract, spread at 304 km. (Source: Company’s official website)
(FYI: A slurry pipeline is a specially engineered pipeline used to move ores, such as coal or iron, or mining waste, called tailings, over long distances)
PIHA was incorporated as Mineral Resources in July 2006 on ASX.
The company was a merger of pipeline manufacturing and contracting businesses PIHA, Crushing Services International (CSI), and Process Minerals International (PMI).
Minerals Resources operates two hard rock lithium mines in Western Australia; Mount Marion in the Goldfields and Wodgina in the Pilbara.
“Our wholly-owned subsidiary Crushing Mining Services (CSI), provides world-class tailored crushing, screening and processing solutions for some of the world’s largest mining companies.”
Northern Star Resources Ltd
Market Capitalization: AU$ 13.63 billion
Number of Employees: 3300+
Year of Inception: 2003
Company CEO: Ed Deutschlander
Northern Star is a global gold producer operating in regions of Australia and North America.
The company deals in the operations of underground and open-pit gold mines.
It was founded in 2003 to explore ore deposits in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, but later, in 2010 turned into a gold mining company with the acquisition of Paulsens Gold Mine.
The company finalised a merger in February 2021 with Saracen Metal Holdings. As a result, the latter was de-listed from the ASX, and only Northern Star Resources continued to be incorporated into the listing as a sole shareholder.
Northern Star owns and operates three world-class gold production centres, namely:
All are located exclusively in Australia and North America’s low sovereign risk jurisdiction.
“Northern Star continues to invest in building its asset base through strategic acquisitions and aggressive exploration to extend the mine lives across its world-class operations.”
Pilbara Minerals Ltd
Market Capitalization: AU$ 11.87
Number of Employees: 450
Year of Inception: 2005
Company CEO: Dale Henderson
Pilbara Minerals is a Lithium specialist mining company.
Founded in 2005, Pilbara owns the world’s largest and independent hard-rock lithium operation. Other than Lithium, the company also deals in tantalite.
But you may be surprised to know that the company initially started as an internet and telephone sports bookmaker in January 2005.
Three years after its inception, the company closed its bookmaking business and renamed itself Fortuna Metals.
A year later, the company purchased 13 exploration licenses in Pilbara in 2009/10. Subsequently, after a couple of years, it acquired Sturt Resources – a company with gold and copper interests in Papua New Guinea.
So, it has hardly been a decade since the company started exploring minerals, and it has already occupied the top position in the list of Australian mining companies.
Continuing its acquisitions, Pilbara bought a 50% stake in the Tabba Tabba Tantalum project in June 2014 and Pilgangoora Tantalum-Lithium Tantalum (now known as Pilgangoora Operation) in July 2014.
Another project, Altura lithium in Western Australia, was acquired and made part of the Pilgangoora Operation in 2020.
But it is not just the acquisitions that speak volumes about the company’s rapid growth. Over the years, Pilbara has also struck deals with global giants like Ganfeng Lithium, General Lithium, Great Wall Motor Company, POSCO, CATL, and Yibin Tianyi.
For climate action, the company is well placed as lithium is a vital component in clean energy as part of electric vehicle batteries and general-purpose electricity storage solutions.
“The future is lithium, and our world-class Pilgangoora Project is the largest independent hard-rock lithium mining operation globally. Our experienced team is pursuing a growth and diversification strategy to become a sustainable, low-cost lithium producer and fully integrated lithium raw materials and chemicals supplier in the coming years.”
Market Capitalization: AU $10.25 billion
Number of Employees: 250+
Year of Inception: 2000
Company CEO: Matt Dusci
Formerly known as Independence Group NL, IGO Limited is a mining and exploration company listed on ASX 100.
The company owns the Nova nickel-copper-cobalt operation in Western Australia. It is also invested in lithium mining joint ventures with Tianqi Lithium Corporation and produces battery-grade lithium hydroxide in a processing refinery at Kwinana.
The company claims to be “focused on creating a better planet for future generations by discovering, developing, and delivering products critical to clean energy.”
A key component of IGO’s strategy is to explore metals necessary for clean energy, like other mining companies.
Such minerals of the company’s interests include nickel, copper and cobalt, which are used in the manufacturing of energy storage devices such as lithium-ion batteries.
Among other things, the company is proud of a new mining process patented under the company name and known as IGO Process.
Using the IGO Process, nickel sulphate can be produced directly from nickel sulphide concentrates.
What are nickel sulphate and nickel sulphide? Well, nickel sulphate is a chemical form of the metal nickel, which is increasingly being used in car batteries to allow for a more extended driving range due to its high energy density.
As you might have guessed, Nickel Sulphide is a raw form of nickel sulphate which must be treated to get nickel sulphate.
“Our work is making fundamental changes to the way communities all over the world grow, prosper and stay sustainable. Our teams are finding and producing the products that will make energy storage mobile, efficient and effective enough to make long-term improvements to the lifestyle of hundreds of millions of people across the globe.”
OZ Minerals Limited
Market Capitalization: AU$ 9.36 billion
Number of Employees: 1000+
Year of Inception: 2008
Company CEO: Andrew Cole
Formed by the merger between Oxiana and Zinifex in 2008, OZ Minerals is an Australian mining company based out of Adelaide.
The company was founded in Melbourne but moved its headquarters to Adelaide in 2015.
Therefore, we have included this “Melbourne-born” company in our Adelaide list. 😉
In 2009, OZ Minerals was acquired by a Chinese firm, MMG (previously called China Minmetals).
It was a challenging takeover, however. As one of the three high-profile acquisitions of Australian mineral interests, OZ minerals was one of the moves made by the Chinese company.
The public outcry got the Australian government involved, which blocked the move, citing security concerns due to the proximity of Prominent Hill Mine to the RAAF Woomera Range Complex.
In 2009, however, the takeover was allowed to be completed.
The company claims to explore minerals with a vision to create a low-carbon future and bring economic well-being.
In August 2022, BHP attempted to acquire the company, but OZ minerals rejected the proposal.
“We ensure our environmental footprint is minimised by developing pathways to reach our aspirations for zero emissions, zero waste, and minimised water consumption.”
BlueScope Steel Limited
Market Capitalization: AU$ 8.15 billion
Number of Employees: 15000+
Year of Inception: 2002
Company CEO: Mark R. Vassella
BlueScope Steel Limited was born out of BHP Billiton in 2002. Across North America, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and Asia, it produces flat-product steel.
The company’s headquarters is located in Melbourne.
BlueScope has become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of painted and coated steel products. The company’s prowess in steel production is manifested through its vital role in providing components for houses, buildings, structures, automotive and more.
In this respect, the company’s global outreach has also resulted in many grand partnerships.
Like in India, the company has established a joint venture (JV), Tata BlueScope, with Tata conglomerate. NS BlueScope is another joint venture the company has formed with Nippon Steel.
NS BlueScope is exploring multiple new opportunities across South East Asia and on the West Coast of the United States.
Overall, the company’s operations are spread in over 18 countries. Across the vast geography of the company’s presence, it operates more than 160 operations and sales offices.
“Our global networks are another great strength at BlueScope. With more than 160 operations and sales offices across 18 countries, we employ over 15,000 people and serve thousands of customers every day. ”
Lynas Rare Earths Limited
Market Capitalization: AU$ 7.50 billion
Number of Employees: 900
Year of Inception: 1983
Company CEO: Amanda Margaret Lacaze
The following company on the list has a proven track record of being the world’s second-largest producer of separated rare earth Materials.
Founded in 1983, Lynas was first known as Yilgangi Gold NL before adopting the current name in 1985.
The shift in name also came with the change in its mining operations, and in 1986 the company sold off its gold division to focus on rare earth.
In 1994, however, the company again jumped into an opportunity for gold exploration by opening a mine at Lynas Find, 130 km south of Port Hedland, WA. Soon after, in 1998, the company jointly developed another gold mine at Paraburdoo, WA, in collaboration with Sipa Resources.
With its focus zeroing in on gold mining in the late 90s, the company saw the opportunity to diversify into the rare piles of earth industry in 2000. This opportunity came knocking when Ashton Mining intended to sell off its Mount Weld rare earth project.
In the exploration and mining of rare earth Materials, China is the world leader and holds hegemony in the field. Lynas, however, is the only significant producer of the scale of separated Rare Earth Metals outside China.
As you must have noted in the priorities of our listed companies, with the global shift towards clean energy and green technologies, rare earth has become a central spot in the category of most-wanted minerals.
These materials are essential for green technologies such as electric vehicles and wind turbines.
“As part of our Lynas 2025 growth strategy, we are expanding our industrial footprint with a planned Rare Earths Processing Facility in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.”
Allkem Limited (Orocobre)
Market Capitalization: AU$ 7.59 billion
Number of Employees: 1000+
Year of Inception: 2005
Company CEO: Martin Perez De Solay
Orocobre Limited is a Brisbane-based mining-resource company with most operations in lithium and borax mining.
It is one of the largest global lithium carbonate suppliers and an established producer of boron.
Though previously known as Orcobore, the company changed its name to Allkem in November 2021.
Orocobre recently opened the world’s first commercial, brine-based lithium operation constructed in approximately 20 years in partnership with Toyota Tsusho Corporation (TTC).
As you might already know, Lithium is used in battery manufacturing.
A few of the company’s main projects are
- Olaroz Lithium Project near Salar de Olaroz lake in Northwest Argentina
- Three open pit mines in Northern Argentina known as project Borax Argentina
- Naraha Lithium Hydroxide Plant in Japan
“Inspired people creating a premier global gold company – a sustainable business that prospers through the cycle. We have grown into a globally relevant gold producer since inception in November 2011.”
Evolution Mining Limited
Market Capitalization: AU$ 5.98 billion
Number of Employees: 3000
Year of Inception: 2011
Company CEO: Jake Klein
The story of Evolution Mining Limited is an inspiring one.
In 2010, the company’s founder, Jake Klein, grabbed an opportunity to fill a vacuum in the mining sector.
Well, only Jake Klein had the grit and guts to see this as an opportunity because the asset he was eyeing in North Queensland was believed by most to be unfeasible for development.
Klein, assisted by a small management team, passionately pursued a series of daring and complex deals to establish Evolution Mining in 2011. Ultimately, though, he made his first resources, which others considered almost impossible, into one of the world’s highest-grade open-pit gold mines.
The company today owns and operates mines at Cowal, NSW. Mt Carlton, Mt Rawdon, and Ernest Henry, Queensland; and Mungari, WA.
Apart from its Australian projects, the company also operates projects in Ontario, Canada.
Since its success with the first project, Evolution has constantly been evolving – as the company’s official page would put it – for the better.
After five years, it completed the buy-out of La Mancha Resources Australian operations. The acquisition was valued at A$300 million. This acquisition won the company two gold mines: Frog’s Leg and White Foil.
Also, as a bonus, came the nearby processing plant at the Mungari. The processing plant processes the ore excavated from the White Foil mine, an open pit mine.
In 2021, the company acquired Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Battle North Gold for Canadian $343 million.
“Over the last three years, Evolution Mining has grown EPS by 9.1% per year. That growth rate is fairly good, assuming the company can keep it up.”
Market Capitalization: US$ 3.22 billion
Number of Employees: 5000+
Year of Inception: 2002
Company CEO: Michael Peter Ferraro
The last company on our list is an Australian holding company spun off from Western Mining Corporation in 2002.
Despite this company’s market capital being in the top 15 mining companies of Australia, the only assets owned by the company are a 40% share in Alcoa World Alumina & Chemicals (AWAC).
Yes, that’s right.
The assets owned by the company are in a joint venture with Alcoa.
In 2016, however, the company achieved significant short-term authority over its interest in AWAC with more influence over a broader suite of operational and investment decisions.
The company was initially dual-listed with shares on both ASX and NYSE. But in 2014, it decided to delist from NYSE, consolidating on the ASX.
It is interesting to note, though, how much worth owning a 40% share in a company can bring to Alumina Limited. This ownership puts the company in the top 100 Australian companies and among the top 15 Australian mining companies.
“Alumina Limited is one of Australia’s top 100 companies, delivering strong returns, consistent performance and ongoing growth.”
With this last mining company, our dig for this blog finally ends.
However, we don’t mind you exploring the site to find more gems. 😉
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