BHP’s economic and commodity outlook – February 2024
The Economic and Commodity Outlook for February 2024 considers the near-term macroeconomic and operational environment, and associated impact on commodity markets. It also discusses global megatrends, including traditional development and decarbonisation drivers, and demand growth for commodities out to 2050.
Read previous BHP Economic and Commodity Outlooks
What is the BHP Economic and Commodity Outlook?The BHP Economic and Commodity Outlook is a half-yearly report produced by BHP that focuses on key trends in global commodity markets over the previous six months and highlights those that will shape future growth.
What is in the report?The outlook provides a comprehensive analysis of the factors that have affected the global economy and commodity markets in the last six months, and how BHP considers longer-dated megatrends facing our industry. From the macroeconomic backdrop in China, India and the major advanced economies, to the developments taking shape in iron ore, copper, coal, nickel and potash, this report covers the latest forces shaping the mining sector and the world.
What are critical minerals?Growing demand for metals and minerals is increasingly linked with the global drive towards low-carbon energy generation and storage technologies and decarbonisation objectives. BHP produces essential resources the world needs to decarbonise and develop more sustainably, including copper for the expanded electricity networks critical to the energy transition, nickel for the batteries needed to power electric vehicles and higher-quality iron ore and metallurgical coal for the steel needed to build our cities and create new infrastructure, such as fast trains and wind turbines.
Which countries import the most commodities from Australia?China continues to be the largest importer of Australian commodities, specifically iron ore. In September 2023, BHP achieved a milestone of three billion tonnes of high-quality iron ore shipped to China from its Port Hedland operations in Western Australia.
Which commodity is Australia’s largest export?
Iron ore is Australia’s top export. Australia produces low-cost, high-quality iron ore with the largest iron ore deposits located in Western Australia. This includes BHPs Western Australia Iron Ore business containing five mines in the Pilbara region.
Australia is also the world’s largest exporter of coal with BHP operating Australia’s biggest coal mine, Peak Downs, located in the Bowen Basin of central Queensland.
Is there sufficient investment in critical minerals to achieve the energy transition?
The energy transition will require large-scale capital investment in critical minerals, with estimates of an additional US$100 billion per year required for the resources sector - if the world is to meet demand associated with achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
In a 1.5 degree scenario the world is expected to require significant multiples of metals and minerals in the coming three decades compared to the last three – two times as much copper, four times as much nickel, twice as much steel, twice as much potash – and so on for the other critical metals and minerals.
BHP’s estimate is that under a plausible 1.5 degree scenario, the copper industry could require around 250 billion US dollars in cumulative growth capital over the next seven years to 2030, and that is over and above sustaining capital.
Why is Potash important?
Potassium is the seventh most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. Potash fertilisers are a critical source of the potassium that crops need to grow. As an essential nutrient for plant growth, potash is a vital link in the global food supply chain. And the demands on that supply chain are intensifying; while cultivated land area will remain almost static, the global population will be close to 10 billion by 2050.
We think demand for potash could double by the late 2040s, by which point it could be a US$50 billion market.
Pathways to decarbonisation episode eight: The "brown-to-green transition"
At the simplest level, the brown-to-green (B2G) transition involves moving from an energy system that is fossil fuel and carbon-emission intensive to one that is not, and whose critical inputs include more sustainably produced metals and materials.
Pathways to decarbonisation episode seven: the electric smelting furnace
The global iron and steel supply chain is immense, producing nearly 2 billion tonnes of steel products annually, which are used in our buildings, cars, whitegoods, wind turbines and numerous other steel-containing goods and infrastructure.