* New resources projects decline as mining boom ends
* Investment pipeline falls to A$240 bln from $268 bln in April
* Iron ore still a bright spot as Rio, BHP, Fortescue expand
PERTH, Nov 27 (Reuters) - The number of resources projects set for construction in Australia has slipped to its lowest in nearly a decade as the end of the resources boom curbs new investment in minerals and oil and gas.
And just five projects worth a combined A$1.7 billion ($1.6 billion) were approved for construction in the past six months, official figures showed on Wednesday, the lowest by number and value for a six-month period in more than a decade.
Australia, which prospered while larger economies buckled under the weight of the global financial crisis thanks to a surge in raw materials demand from China, is now seeing many projects reach completion while new projects are being put on hold.
“Lower commodity prices and rising costs have created a more challenging investment environment and contributed to a decline in the number of projects moving through the investment pipeline,” the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) said in its half-yearly report.
Mining investment has soared in Australia over the past decade, peaking this year at about 8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), more than four times its historical average.
As of October, there were 63 mineral, oil and gas and infrastructure projects at the committed stage - those preparing to start construction - down from 73 six months ago, the bureau said.
Overall investment in new resource projects also declined, but still stood at A$240 billion, down from $268 billion six months ago.
“The sector is now in a period of belt-tightening that has followed years of rapid growth. There are projects still going ahead but its getting tougher,” said Keith Goode, of Eagle Mining Research.
The bureau said 71 projects in the planning stages have been delayed by a year or more in the past six months.
The value of committed projects was also expected to decline rapidly over the next four years as a number of multi-billion dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects are completed.
Iron ore mining remained one of the largest sources of potential investment in Australia. At end-October, there were 19 projects worth between A$35.8 billion and A$55.8 billion under study.
Australia holds the world’s largest known deposits of iron ore. Rio Tinto , BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group are each undergoing large-scale expansion work.
Nine LNG, gas and oil projects were also in preliminary stages of development in Australia, which is three lower than reported in April.
The largest is the Browse LNG joint venture off the north-west coast of Western Australia owned in part by Woodside Petroleum. A final investment decision is due in 2015.