Mining broadly relates to the extraction of minerals occurring naturally as solids such as coal and ores, liquids such as crude petroleum, or gases such as natural gas. Activities carried out at or near mine sites as an integral part of mining operations, such as dressing or beneficiation of ores or other minerals, are included. Natural gas absorption and purifying plants are also included. However, the first stage processing of minerals and mineral extracts, while closely related to the mining industry, is included as part of the manufacturing industry.
Australia continues to rank as one of the world's leading mining nations with substantial identified resources of major minerals and fuel close to the surface. In 2002 it had the world's largest economic demonstrated resources of bauxite, lead, mineral sands (ilmenite, rutile and zircon), nickel, silver, tantalum, uranium and zinc. Australia is the largest producer of bauxite and mineral sands in the world. It is also one of the largest producers of iron ore, nickel, uranium and zinc, contributing respectively 17%, 17%, 28% and 16% of world production in 2002.
The contribution of the mining industry to Australia's gross domestic product has remained around 5% over the past ten years. From an industry of origin perspective, the mining industry is the nation's second largest export earner (after manufacturing), accounting for 26% of the total value of exports in 2003-04, principally from the coal, and oil and gas extraction industries.