Australia set for decades-long mining boom: top official

SYDNEY, October 22, 2009 (AFP) – Australia could be set for a decades-long commodities boom fuelled by rocketing demand from China and India, a senior official said in the country’s latest upbeat economic assessment. Treasury secretary Ken Henry also said a return to full employment was a “conceivable possibility” in the coming years, with major export partners showing unexpected resilience despite the global downturn.

“It now appears the impact of the global financial crisis on the Chinese economy and the Indian economy hasn’t been nearly as large as many feared,” Henry told a Senate hearing late Wednesday.

“It seems that’s likely to support relatively high commodity prices, that is prices for Australian export commodities, for a considerable period of time, quite possibly for some decades.”

Australia enjoyed a decade of stellar economic growth, underpinned by intense demand for resources from fast-industrialising China and India, until the global financial crisis.

But the world’s biggest miner BHP Billiton in September said it expected growth in China to fuel a new boom over coming decades, with global steel demand to double in 15 years.

Both India and China would drive a 40 percent