The mining industry has raised its opposing voice to the carbon tax, saying it place thousands of jobs at risk and close coal mines within three years.
The Executive Director of the Australian Coal Association, Ralph Hillman said the $23-per-tonne carbon tax will not reduce greenhouse has emissions, but will put thousands of people out of work and damage Australia’s economic growth.
“Coal is the industry that protected Australia from entering a deep recession during the GFC, a fact widely recognised by most economists.
“It is Australia’s biggest export industry, and contributes 3.5 per cent to our nations economic growth.
“It is bigger than any other mineral and resource export and employs around 40 000 Australians directly,, with another 100 000 in associated industries.
“The Australian government’s proposed carbon tax will close mines and coal miners and those who support the coal mining industry, such as small business suppliers, will close.
“This is not a scare campaign from the Australian Coal Association – this is about real coal miners, with real jobs and families in Australian regional communities.”
Smaller players under pressure
Those set to be worst affected by the carbon tax are smaller companies including New Hope, Whitehaven and Gujarat NRE, experiencing a possible drop in profits of four per cent.
The federal government has announced a $1.264 billion assistance package to assist what it sees as the worst-affected mines, but the Australian Coal Association says it is not directing the money towards the correct operations.
The assistance package was intended to protect jobs in mines that produce large amounts of methane gas during the mining process that will be damaged most by the carbon tax.
But Hillman has hit back at claims Australia’s coal mines are “gassy” and said mines already struggling will be closed prematurely when the tax is brought in.
”In the older coalmining areas where costs are rising and mine lives are getting shorter anyway, you are going to see closures and the growth that takes place will be further west where there are bigger, lower cost mines,” he said.
”You are going to see probable growth in mining further west in Queensland and New South Wales and you are going to see the existing mining centres in the Hunter and Illawarra losing jobs and having mines close.”
The Gillard government has not revealed how the assistance package will be paid, whether through cash, free permits, or other types of incentives.
Experts predict the coal industry’s costs to increase by $18 billion in less than a decade.
Many in the sector argue that it deserves a protection, up to 94. 5 per cent given to other emission intensive industries.
A spanner in the works
Australian miners big and small have slammed the tax, and David Peever managing director of the country’s second most profitable miner, Rio Tinto said in a statement today that the tax is “unfair on Australian exporters.”
"We are deeply concerned the proposed carbon tax fails to shield Australia’s export sector and leaves it at a disadvantage compared to international competitors," he said.
General manager of the Anglo American’s Drayton mine, Clarence Robertson told The Australian he feared for the jobs at the mine, including his own.
Plans are underway to relocate all the staff from Anglo’s Muswellbrook operation to the Drayton mine by 2015.
But the carbon tax has thrown a spanner in the works for the company, who faces job cuts when it is forced to pay up to $2 billion in the next nine years alone.
The miner predicts it will account for 75 per cent of revenue raised from coal mines by the tax.
"We’ve got no way at the moment to capture and reduce emissions from open-cut mining," Mr Robertson said.
"So if the tax comes in it’s really just going to be a cost to us, and we can’t do anything to curb that."
Diesel fuel worries
Junior miners are expected to be worst affected by the 6 per cent a litre reduction on diesel the Gillard government announced when they announced the tax yesterday.
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Simon Bennison said the predominantly off-road sector would be "seriously penalised".
"There are also a number of companies that operate in remote regions that do not have access to grid power, so they have to generate their own power through the use of diesel," he said.
"So those companies . . . will be disadvantaged and discriminated against as a consequence."
Bennison argued it is unfair that the mining industry now has three taxes, the mineral resources rent tax, the carbon tax and the "diesel tax".
Image: Prime Minister Julia Gillard, with Treasurer Wayne Swan and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, announcing the tax yesterday.