EIGHTEEN projects worth $30.3 billion represent Australia’s highest value recorded for project completions in a six month period, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE).

With the release of its biannual Resources and Energy Major Projects report last week, BREE confirmed that Australia’s burgeoning resources sector is entering a new phase.

“Australia is now seeing a transition from the investment phase of the resources boom to the production phase,” says BREE deputy executive director Wayne Calder.

Previously announcing unprecedented levels of project approvals and construction, BREE’s latest findings show that as of October, there were 63 projects at the ‘committed’ stage with a combined value of $240 billion compared with 73 projects worth $268 billion six months earlier.

Calder says this drop is in part due to three ‘mega’ projects valued at over $5 billion reaching completion, including BHP Billiton’s Jimblebar mine and rail project, Rio Tinto’s Cape Lambert port and rail expansion, and the latest expansion of the Woodside-led North West Shelf LNG project (North Rankin B).

“While the number of projects at the ‘committed’ stage contracted, the six months to October 2013 saw 18 projects completed at a record $30 billion,” he says.

“The projects competed over the past 12 months have added considerably to Australia’s production capacity and will support strong commodity export volumes into the future.”

The BREE data follows a BIS Shrapnel forecast that mining production will grow by 41% over the next five years, led primarily by LNG and iron ore.

Its report Mining in Australia 2013 to 2028 indicates the industry will target productivity gains to offset a fall in investment.

“By 2017-18, annual fixed capital investment is forecast to have shrunk to $66 billion as a new, smaller round of developments begins to ramp up,” the report says.

“This is six times the level of investment during the early 2000s.”

BREE’s forward projections also indicate that investment in Australia’s resources is likely to decline over the medium term.

Reflecting widely-held concerns that the industry has fallen victim to over-regulation, inefficient taxation and high costs, BREE reports an additional 71 projects in the planning stages of the investment pipeline have been delayed by a year or more in the six months to October.

Specifically, the number of projects at the ‘publically announced’ stage fell in value from between $12 billion to $19 billion.

However, it highlights that higher levels of investment could be sustained if projects at earlier stages of development proceed through the pipeline.

The advice signals an opportunity for the Australia Government and business community to deliver greater employment and economic returns in an environment of intensifying global competition.