THE peak representative body for minerals and energy companies in Queensland says regional communities can look forward to continuing growth in the coal industry despite recent setbacks.
Queensland Resources Council (QRC) Chief Executive Michael Roche said that retrenchments at two central Queensland coal mines were a regrettable consequence of specific corporate circumstances and production constraints.
“The anguish being felt by the employees and their families is of genuine concern to everyone in the industry but their skills and experience will remain in high demand in the foreseeable future,” Roche said.
“It is no secret that the Goonyella coal supply chain in the northern Bowen Basin is under-performing and under pressure.
“Something has to give with millions of dollars of revenue stacked up in coal stockpiles.
“We all know that projects of the magnitude required to address the problems can’t be delivered with the wave of a magic wand, so there is, sadly, no alternative path to longer-term gains for central Queensland.
“The review of the Goonyella coal supply chain by former rail chief executive Stephen O’Donnell openly and coherently identified the problems, and recommended courses of action to maximise opportunities from the current system.
“From start to finish, the review enjoyed the full support of all participants and its recommendations were endorsed without reservation by the state government.’
A recent study by the Minerals Council of Australia and the Federal Government has forecast a 50% growth in Queensland coal industry employment by 2015, driven by continuing economic growth in China and India.
“There is nothing on the radar to suggest anything other than growth ahead for the minerals and energy sector in Queensland, especially as two countries representing almost 40% of the world’s population win greater economic freedoms,” Roche said.
“Our immediate challenges include getting supply chains working as efficiently as possible and then augmenting them in a coordinated fashion — a task that I am pleased to say Stephen O’Donnell has agreed to establish, again with the joint backing of industry and the state government.”
Commenting on calls for a federal takeover of Queensland’s coal ports, Roche said that an efficient and responsive export infrastructure system would not be guaranteed by a change of ownership or administration.
“What we need is more investment, and coal producers are backing feasibility studies and early works in some key rail and port expansion projects on top of nearly $6 billion in rail and port projects completed or under way.
“If the Federal Government would like to come to the party, I am sure Queensland coal industry participants would welcome them with open arms.
“One of the recurring themes throughout the resources surge of the last five years has been the country’s shortage of skilled labour.
“Education and training is an area where additional federal investment would also make a big difference in regional Queensland, underpinning both industrial growth and employment opportunities for this and future generations,” Roche said.