Australian firms lead in world’s largest mining companies list

19 August 2019 3 min. read
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Australia is one of the globe’s most important countries in the mining industry. The world’s top two mining companies – BHP Group and Rio Tinto – are both of Australian-origin, while three more Australian companies – South32, Newcrest Mining and Fortescue Metals Group – rank among the 40 largest mining companies of the world. 

Analysis by professional services firm PwC on the globe’s mining industry shows that the sector is thriving, at least financially. Growing demand for resources, which often serve as key raw materials for industrial processes and consumer products, coupled with rising commodity prices, has lifted the combined revenue of the globe’s top 40 mining companies to US$683 billion last year, up from $539 billion in 2015. Bottom-line results have also improved markedly in the period, with profitability (measured in EBITDA terms) jumping from $91 billion to $165 billion. Meanwhile, cash reserves at the world’s forty largest mining firms grew from $82 billion to just over the $100 mark.

The globe’s top two players both have Australian roots. BHP Group, formerly known as BHP Billiton, is an Anglo-Australian multinational (listed in both the UK and Australia) specialised in the mining of metals and petroleum. BHP Group, headquartered in Melbourne, Victoria, has around 62,000 employees globally, generating revenues of over $US43 billion.

Australian firms lead in world’s largest mining companies list

With revenues of around $5 billion less, Melbourne-headquartered Rio Tinto is the world’s second largest mining company. The company was founded in 1873 in Spain, but today the firm’s mining activities concentrated around iron ore, copper, uranium and diamonds is mainly conducted in Australia and Canada. Rio Tinto has around 47,000 staff and is led by chairman Simon Thompson and chief executive officer Jean-Sébastien Jacques. 

Third in the list of the world’s largest mining companies is Brazil-headquartered Vale, with the top five round off by Switzerland-based Glencore and China’s China Shenhua Energy Company. 

While the list of top 40 comprises companies from several countries, analysis shows that the market is concentrated, with all mining companies coming from just 15 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Thanks to the listings of South32, Newcrest Mining and Fortescue Metals Group, Australia is with five spots one of the leading mining countries. 

South32 was founded in 2015, when it was spun out of BHP Billiton. The listed company has revenues of over $6 billion, is headquartered in Perth and specialises in metals mining. Newcrest Mining was founded in 1921 in the United States, but today is headquartered in Melbourne. The company specialises in the exploration, development, mining and sale of gold and gold-copper concentrate, and is Australia's leading gold mining company. Lastly, Fortescue Metals Group is an iron ore company, and is in its segments the world’s fourth largest player after BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale. The Perth-headquartered company has around 5,500 employees, of which the largest chunk are based in Western Australia.

Beyond Australia’s five largest mining companies, the industry as a whole forms a key part of the national economy. The mining sector currently contributes around 8% to Australia's GDP (total output), and employs around 2% of the workforce – about 220,000 people.