Mining and manufacturing

Economic contributionMineral production | Petroleum production | Manufacturing | Explanatory notes

Economic contribution

The Northern Territory’s (NT) mining and manufacturing industries increased by 3.0% in 2016‑17 to $4.4 billion (inflation adjusted). The modest increase in 2016-17 reflected a 3.0% increase in the mining industry to over $3.0 billion and a 2.9% increase in the manufacturing industry to $1.3 billion.

Mining and manufacturing contribute to the NT economy through international trade, private investment and employment. The mining and manufacturing industries also have a significant impact on the NT’s construction industry as mining and manufacturing projects generally require significant levels of construction activity.

In 2016-17, mining and manufacturing accounted for 16.8% of NT economic output. Of the two industries, mining (which includes petroleum and liquefied natural gas (LNG) production) is the key contributor to the NT economy (Chart 1), and contributed 11.8% to the NT’s GSP in 2016‑17 compared to 7.4% nationally.

Mining and manufacturing employed an average of 9,440 NT residents in 2016-17, a slight decline compared to the previous year. The decrease was largely driven by a 5.2% decrease in mining industry employment, which was partly offset by a 0.5% increase in the manufacturing industry. These figures may be an underestimate of the resident workforce employed on mining and manufacturing projects in the NT as some jobs attributed to the construction industry are likely related to mining projects.

Both industries also employ large numbers of fly‑in fly‑out (FIFO) workers from interstate, who are not included in the NT’s official employment figures. According to the 2016 Census, there were around 8,700 FIFO workers in the NT, with the majority of those employed in mining and mining-related industries (such as construction). This was a significant increase from 5,200 FIFOs employed in the NT as at the 2011 Census, in part reflecting the substantial overall workforce employed in the construction of the Ichthys   LNG plant, a large number of whom are FIFO, which will make a significant contribution to the NT’s mining output when it commences production.

Mineral production

The NT’s mineral producers sold $3.6 billion worth of commodities in 2016-17, an 18.9% increase from 2015-16 in current prices (Table 1). The majority of mineral commodities produced in the NT are metallic, including gold dore (a mixture of gold and silver), manganese, zinc/lead concentrate (including individual concentrates), bauxite, and uranium (Chart 2).

The NT also produces a range of non-metallic minerals such as rock, sand, gravel and quicklime, however these only contributed 1.5% of the total value of mineral commodities sold in 2016-17.

The NT’s metallic mineral commodities are predominantly exported overseas, (with the exception of gold dore production, much of which is transported to the Perth mint for processing). In 2016‑17, the NT’s international exports of mineral commodities was worth $697.7 million, an increase of 20.3% compared to the previous year. However this followed two years of substantial declines, and is much lower than the $1.77 billion worth of mineral commodities exported in 2013‑14, at the peak of the mining boom.

More detailed information about movements in commodity prices and exchange rates is outlined in the International trade section of this website.

Map 1: Current and pending mineral and onshore petroleum production in the NT1

Map 1

1  This map is produced from various sources. Department of Treasury and Finance cannot guarantee the accuracy,currency or completeness of the information. To be used as a guide only.
Source: Department of Primary Industry and Resources, Department of Treasury and Finance.


Manganese is one of the raw ingredients used in the manufacturing of steel and production is largely driven by global steel demand. It is produced on Groote Eylandt and at the Bootu Creek mine, near Tennant Creek. The NT’s manganese production in 2016-17 was valued at $1.5 billion, a 79.1% increase from $829.3 million in 2015-16, reflecting improved commodity prices and the reopening of Bootu Creek mine.


Gold is currently produced in the Tanami region (the Granites gold mine) and in the Barkly region (Edna Beryl mine). Gold has also historically been produced around the Pine Creek region in the Top End. Most gold is produced in the form of gold dore, which is transported to the Perth Mint in Western Australia for refining into gold bars.

The value of gold and gold dore production in the NT decreased by 18.2% over the year from $885.1 million in 2015-16 to $723.6 million in 2016-17. The decrease was mainly a result of lower production volumes following the suspension of production at the Cosmo mine .

Zinc and lead

Zinc and lead are produced at the McArthur River mine, located 65 kilometres southwest of Borroloola, in the form of a combined zinc/lead and silver concentrate as well as individual zinc and lead concentrates. The value of total zinc and lead production (including individual concentrates) in 2016-17 was $650.0 million, a 28.8% increase from $504.5 million in 2015-16. This increase reflects increased lead and zinc prices over the year, with levels of production at the mine falling slightly.


The NT’s bauxite is produced at the Rio Tinto mine at the Gove peninsula and at Gulkula mine in Northeast Arnhem Land.

The value of bauxite production in the NT increased modestly by 0.9% to $451.8 million in 2016-17, from $447.7 million in 2015-16, due to an increase in underlying production levels.


Uranium is produced at the Ranger mine, which is located within the boundaries of the Kakadu National Park. Total value of production at the Ranger mine was $262.8 million in 2016-17, a 16.2% decrease from $313.7 million in 2015-16. Following the curtailment of open-cut mining in 2012, production has been attributable to the running down of stockpiles. The mine has not obtained traditional owner support for an extension to the mine’s operations beyond the current lease agreement, which is due to end in January 2021. Energy Resources Australia, who operate the mine, are expected to release their Ranger Closure Plan later in 2018.

Other minerals

Non-metallic mineral production decreased by 22.0% in 2016‑17, with declines in production of lime, gravel, crushed rock and sand being partly offset by an increase in soil production.

Following the suspension of production at the Harts Range garnet mine, there was no mineral sands production in the NT in 2016‑17, nor was there any ilmenite (used to produce titanium oxide and other metallic products) or iron ore produced in the year. However, ilmenite production has since recommenced and is expected to contribute to the NT’s mineral production from 2017‑18, and iron ore production may recommence over 2018.

Petroleum production

Petroleum production in the NT includes the extraction of crude oil, condensate and natural gas, as well as the production of LNG, which makes up a large proportion of the NT’s overall production. Onshore petroleum production in the NT occurs mainly in the Amadeus Basin around the central Australia region and at the Darwin LNG plant, located at Wickham Point. The NT’s offshore petroleum production comprises operations in NT and jointly administered waters, such as the Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA) (Map 2).


The NT produces oil both onshore, in Central Australia, and offshore, in the Timor sea. Offshore oil production attributed to the NT in 2016-17 was at the Montara and Laminaria‑Corrallina oilfields. Oil produced offshore is exported directly from the fields for overseas trade. This activity is evident in the NT’s international exports data, though its reporting may be limited by confidentiality constraints. The value of the NT’s offshore petroleum oil exports increased by 11.1% to $213.8 million in 2016‑17.

Following the suspension of production at the Surprise oilfield in 2015, the NT’s onshore oil production is solely from the Mereenie oilfield, located west of Alice Springs. The majority of the oil produced there is transported to South Australia for processing to be sold to domestic customers as well as for export overseas. In 2017, total onshore oil production decreased by 7.3% compared to the previous year (Chart 3).


The NT’s onshore conventional gas is produced from the Amadeus Basin, Dingo and Mereenie gas fields, located in the Central Australia region. The NT’s onshore gas production increased by 18.5% in 2017. This was the fourth consecutive annual increase in the NT’s onshore gas production reflecting increased demand for gas, particularly for the Owen Springs power station near Alice Springs and the Pine Creek power station.

The NT has a number of offshore gas reserves in NT waters and in the jointly administered JPDA (Map 3). Current offshore NT gas production is located at the Bayu‑Undan gas field in the JPDA and Blacktip gas field near the NT and Western Australia border. Gas produced at the Blacktip gas field is transported by pipeline to an onshore processing plant in Yelcherr, near Wadeye, for domestic consumption, supplying the Darwin‑Katherine power network. Gas from Bayu‑Undan in the JPDA is transported by pipeline to the Darwin LNG plant for processing.

LNG production is the largest manufacturing activity in the NT and total goods exported, however, is included in the mining industry classification by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). In 2016‑17, LNG production in the NT declined by 10.7%.

Map 2: Petroleum activity1

Petro Activity

1  This map is produced from various sources. Department of Treasury and Finance cannot guarantee the accuracy, currency or completeness of the information. To be used as a guide only.
Source: Department of Treasury and Finance.


The NT produces a wide range of manufactured goods, generally for local consumption, including steel fabrication, wood, paper and food. Larger scale manufactured goods exported from the NT include boxed beef and helium. The NT’s manufactured goods production contributed $1.3 billion to GSP in 2016-17, in real terms. This was a 2.9% increase from the previous year.

The NT’s manufacturing industry is markedly different to the national industry, with little manufacturing in the NT occurring in traditional factory environments and instead is driven by manufacturing related to the resources and agricultural industries. As a result, the contraction in the industry’s contribution to national GDP has not been reflected at the NT level. The national manufacturing industry has been steadily declining as a proportion of GDP for over 20 years, down from around 12% in the 1990s to 5.7% in 2016‑17 (Chart 4). The NT manufacturing industry has remained reasonably constant over the same period, increasing from around 4.5% of GSP in the 1990s to 5.0% in 2016‑17.

The manufacturing industry employed an average of 4,600 persons in the NT throughout 2016-17, an increase of 15.7% compared to the previous year. The manufacturing industry accounted for 3.3% of the NT’s total resident employment in 2016‑17. This was lower than the national manufacturing industry, which contributed 7.4% to Australia’s total resident employment.

Helium is extracted from gases during LNG refinement and is manufactured at the BOC Darwin helium plant, which is next to the Darwin LNG plant located at Wickham Point near Darwin. The plant in Darwin is the only liquid helium processing plant in the southern hemisphere and produces helium to meet Australia’s domestic demand as well as for export overseas. Helium is used in the medical, electronic, space and defence industries.

Boxed beef is a significant contributor to the NT’s manufacturing industry and is produced at the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) abattoir in Livingstone, which commenced production in 2014‑15. There are three small abattoirs across the NT and they supply beef domestically. More detailed information on boxed beef production can be found in the Agriculture section of this chapter.

Other manufacturing activities are supported by domestic construction activity, which generates demand for local manufacturing such as timber products, steel fabrication and concrete structures. Work on projects such as the Northern Gas Pipeline, also provides opportunities for the local manufacturing industry.

Explanatory notes

The NT’s mining and manufacturing industries’ data are reported together for the purposes of this publication as ABS includes the gross value added of manufactured LNG in the mining industry classification. Mining and manufacturing activities in the NT include mining of metal ores, petroleum production, quarrying and mining of non-metallic minerals, as well as manufacturing of a wide range of products for both domestic and overseas consumption such as concrete, wood chips and food products. The NT’s mining industry data also includes offshore petroleum production in NT waters.

Analysis of the components of this industry is informed by a number of different data sources, including the ABS, information published in company reports and data provided by the Department of Primary Industry and Resources.

The NT has a number of offshore gas reserves in NT waters and in the jointly administered JPDA (Map 3). Current offshore NT gas production is located at the Bayu‑Undan gas field in the JPDA and Blacktip gas field near the NT and Western Australia border. Gas produced at the Blacktip gas field is transported by pipeline to an onshore processing plant in Yelcherr, near Wadeye, for domestic consumption, supplying the Darwin‑Katherine power network. Gas from Bayu‑Undan in the JPDA is transported via pipeline to the Darwin LNG plant for processing. Royalties from resources production in the JPDA is split between the Commonwealth and East Timor, however, the ABS allocates the Australian portion of production to the NT for reporting purposes.