Jobs in Queensland’s coal and exploration sectors grew by more than 3000 in the six months to last November, according to data presented in State Parliament today.
“Coal mining jobs are up 9 per cent to 22,000 and job growth is forecast to improve further with new operations like QCoal and JFE Steel’s Byerwen joint venture and resuming operations like Stanmore’s Isaac Plains,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“Investment in exploration has been climbing, with coal and metals exploration expenditure up by $33 million to $105 million over the six months to last November, driving an increase of 1500 jobs to 13,770.”
The Premier said bright spots were showing in the metals sector as well.
“Base metals prices have improved significantly after a tough 2015, with zinc prices rising 35 per cent and lead by 32 per cent, over the six months to December,” she said.
“Employment fell slightly in the last six months of 2016, but should stabilise as CuDeco’s Rocklands copper project ramps up.
“As well, Altona’s Cloncurry copper is moving closer to development, MMG’s Dugald River zinc project is on track and Rio Tinto’s $1.9 billion bauxite project, Amrun, is progressing and is scheduled to start production later this year.”
Workforce estimates for northern mining developments under way or about to enter construction include: Dugald River – 400 workers when operational, Capricorn Copper – 220 workers when operational, Thalanga zinc project – 100 workers, Auctus Resources Chillagoe project – 170-180 workers, Bauxite Hills – 200 workers when operational, Blair Athol – 150 workers.
The Amrun project will help secure ongoing employment for the existing workforce of about 1400 employees and contractors at Rio Tinto’s Cape York bauxite operations and Resolute Mining’s Ravenswood Expansion Project will maintain long-term employment for a local workforce of about 280 people.
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said there were definitely green shoots across the entire sector, but also highlighted those who had toughed it out through hard times.
“In fact, many of those producers have reached record productivity and export levels during the so-called ‘bust’,” he said.
“The numbers don’t lie, recent employment data shows that there has been a rise in jobs in the coal sector as well as increased exploration expenditure.
“Existing operations are producing at record levels, projects that have been on the drawing board have received the green light, and we would anticipate a significant amount of jobs once the Byerwen, New Acland and Carmichael mines begin construction.
“Let’s not forget our world-leading LNG export industry and the announcements of new natural gas projects including Senex’s Western Surat Gas Project, Arrow’s Tipton Project and QGC/Shell’s Ruby Project.”
As much as green activists wished to shout from their soapboxes that demand for Queensland’s high-quality coal was dead, population growth and urbanisation across South-East Asia meant the International Energy Agency had forecast that coal used for energy would still make up 23 per cent of the energy mix and the tonnage of coal consumed would continue to rise, Mr Macfarlane said.
“Additionally, there is no viable substitute for coking coal in steel making – there is no ‘uber’ in the wings and you can’t use a solar cell to convert iron ore to steel in a blast furnace. Therefore, our coking coal exports, which make up 75 per cent of Queensland’s coal exports, are not in any short-term danger,” he said.
Mr Macfarlane said while Federal Minister for Natural Resources Matt Canavan had been a great supporter of the sector, the Commonwealth had cut funding in 2017-18 for the Exploration Development Incentive at a time when there was a critical need to provide the right policy settings to develop the next pipeline of resource sector projects.