Numerous industries worldwide depend on the supply of commodities from underground such as minerals and metals. The dependency of various high-tech-industries on rare earths
is a late-breaking issue – coal, on the other hand, is still one of the leading global energy resources
. Consequently, the mining sector is pivotal to the world’s economy. The global top 40 companies, which represent a vast majority of the whole industry, reported some 539 billion U.S. dollars of revenue in 2011
. The net profit margin
of this industry stood at 25 percent in the last two years.
In terms of volume, the most exploited commodities
worldwide are coal, iron ore, bauxite and potash. China and the United States are the top coal producing countries
. Iron ore mining is also dominated by China and Australia. Thus, China
is becoming the top mining country for many commodities, especially for the highly needed rare earths, of which China produced some 97 percent in 2010. Additionally, China is the world’s leading country in the mine production of gold
The industry’s top companies
based on market value are Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, followed by Brazil’s Vale. As of March 2012, BHP Billiton had a market value of nearly 180 billion U.S. dollars. Measured by revenue, the top company active in mining worldwide is Anglo-Swiss Glencore
, generating some 186 billion U.S. dollars in 2011. However, it has to be taken into consideration that a large share of Glencore’s revenues comes from commodity trading. Interestingly, Newmont Mining
is the only U.S. mining company among the global top ten.
The mining and metals sector has been very vibrant in terms of deals and acquisitions
over the last few years. In 2010, a record high of 1,123 deals worldwide was reported, a number which stood at only 392 about ten years earlier. In 2011, another 1,008 deals worth more than 160 billion U.S. dollars were done. In terms of value, the major commodities targeted
by these deals were coal, copper, iron and gold.
In the United States
, mining has always played an important part; its relevance increases all the more whenever mining includes the extraction of oil and gas, and supporting activities for mining, as some sources do. As the Bureau of Economical Analysis reports, the total U.S. mining gross output
exceeded half a trillion U.S. dollars in 2011. In the same year, the whole sector added a value of nearly 290 billion U.S. dollars and employed
around 727 thousand people.
Photo: Wikimedia / Dr. Günther Pinzke