The year in review: 2014 in focus

There is not much happy news to dwell upon from 2014.

It was not the best year for the mining sector on a number of fronts.

From safety, to commodity prices and tough decisions around job cuts; the 12 months that just passed will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

We take a look back at some of the trends from 2014, and hope 2015 will see a turn-around for those working in the industry.

The year of too many deaths

It is often said one death on a mine site is too many but this year 17 people working in the mining industry lost their lives.

This is the highest death rate since 2005-06, even before the days of the mining boom.

It also represented the death of a worker every 15 days in the six month period to June 2014.

Few states or territories in Australia were spared, with deaths recorded at mine sites all across the country except for South Australia and Victoria.

Over eight months in NSW, five workers were killed, and this prompted the New South Wale's resources and energy minister Anthony Roberts to search for answers.

Roberts said he had written to the Mine Safety Advisory Council to seek "a deeper, holistic examination of current circumstances''.

"I was concerned that an apparent increase in serious incidents was occurring at the same time as external factors were affecting the industry," Roberts said.

The announcement came amid a growing rumble in the industry that the downturn in commodity prices had led companies to work machines and people harder, which may be compromising safety.

Contractor workers are over-represented in the fatality figures and Queensland's Mines Safety Commissioner sounded a warning earlier this year for the industry to look after its workers.

Commissioner Stewart Bell said the "tragic loss of life in the mining industry is unacceptable and immediate steps must be taken to stop it".

He said mine operators, site senior executives, and managers must understand that effective management of contractors is part of their key obligations.

The commissioner has previously stated he was concerned some sites were of the view that the safety of contractors was not management's problem.

Bell said the "disturbing" increase in mining deaths needs to stop.

The year of massive job cuts

As commodity prices nose-dived this year, companies were forced to rebalance their costs and restructure their workforces to pre-boom levels.

Often labelled as productivity drives, jobs were slashed from every commodity in every state.

Australian Mining estimates that more than 2500 jobs were slashed in the coal sector alone as mining companies either downsized their operations or shut them down completely.

The iron ore industry was also hit, with over 500 jobs slashed from BHP Billiton's iron ore operations in the Pilbara.

Jobs in gold, nickel, silver, uranium and alumina were also cut, and unfortunately some analysts say the cull is far from over.

With commodity prices across the board to remain subdued next year, costs will continue to be a key focus for miners.

And because other areas of the industry's cost structure are less flexible, wages and employment is expected to come under pressure again in the New Year.

The year of some massive milestones

Despite the gloom, it wasn't all bad news for the industry, and some exciting milestones were reached in 2014 which injected much-needed positivity to the sector.

In Western Australia, Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill mine not only secured the $7.2 billion debt it needed to go ahead, but also mined first ore.

Since May, two million tonnes of high-grade ore has been stockpiled ready for railing and shipment.

Rinehart said the mine project is ahead of schedule, with 200 kilometres of the 344-kilometre railway laid.

She has previously called the project a "crucible of opportunity" during a period of global uncertainty.

"It has already shown it will create new jobs, and benefit the greater mining and construction related industries, it will add to Australia's exports, and significantly benefit our West Australian and national econ-omy," Rinehart said.

On the east coast, it was LNG industry that had a stellar year.

On Curtis Island in Queensland, three projects worth $70 billion are nearing completion.

BG Group's QCLNG will be the first of the projects to reach production, with the first shipload of LNG expected in December this year.

Meanwhile, the final section of a gas transmission pipeline has been successfully pushed through a tunnel beneath the Gladstone harbour to the Santos GLNG plant on Curtis Island.

Santos vice-president downstream GLNG Rod Duke said the pipeline would soon be ready to deliver gas to Curtis island.

"This year is about delivering milestones across Santos GLNG," Duke said.

"Santos GLNG delivered the first under-sea crossing for Queensland's CSG to LNG industry.

"We're particularly proud of this achievement, given the innovation and expertise required to achieve a marine crossing like this one."

But in the best news for the sector, the unpopular mining and carbon taxes were both repealed in 2014.

The policies were ushered in by the Gillard government in 2012, and both left a bad taste in the mouth of industry.

News that the carbon tax had been buried was positive news for the sector in an otherwise bleak year.

"Repeal of the carbon tax is good news for the Queensland economy," QRC CEO Michael Roche said.

"The carbon tax was a massive double-fail."

The NSW Minerals Council added that the repeal will help to save resources jobs, congratulating the Government on the decision.

There was also a collective sigh of relief when Tony Abbott came good on his election promise and buried the mining tax.

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