The Federal Government has provided more than $70 million in funding to aid the mining industry in reducing 'fugitive emissions' from coal mines.
Dubbed the Coal Mining Abatement Technology Support Package, it has been designed to support research and development of coal mining emissions, particularly methane.
Speaking yesterday at the CSIRO's Energy Centre in Newcastle, resources minister Martin Ferguson stated that "the package will support the research and development of leading-edge coal abatement technologies designed to safely reduce emissions from coal mining".
He said the "support package is about accelerating the development of abatement technologies and processes to maintain the future viability and international competitiveness of the Australian coal mining industry.
"Coal exports make a significant economic contribution to Australia, accounting for about 17 per cent of our merchandise trade and employing over 50,000 people.
"The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics predicts Australian coal exports will rise to about 490 million tonnes by 2016-17 in line with this trend – a 75 per cent increase.
"It is therefore important that we continue to look for ways to develop a sustainable coal industry in Australia to meet growing global demand."
The funding will support research and development of abatement technology and processes, will go towards measures that address safety and regulatory issues associated with the development and deployment of these technologies, and will support small to medium mines in preparing their own emissions abatement strategies.
Ferguson stated that "The Government acknowledges the carbon price poses significant challenges for the future of Australia’s coal industry.
"However programs such as the one I am launching, coupled with the continued high demand for Australia’s coal, means the sector has a bright future if we can adapt to these new constraints."
His announcement was welcomed by the Australian Coal Association (ACA).
ACA head Nikki Williams said this funding recognises the technical challenges to safe abatement.
"Australia is leading the world in research to measure and abate coal mine fugitive emissions. However, safety remains the coal industry’s number one priority. More time is essential to allow us to develop these technologies in a safe and effective way,” she said.
The industry has reportedly been working on abatement technologies for more than a decade.
"Since 1992 the ACA Research Program (ACARP) has been funding R&D into coal production and use. ACARP currently invests over $14 million per annum on industry-related research, via an industry-wide levy on coal production.
"R&D to address fugitive emissions, particularly from underground coal mines, has been ongoing for more than a decade. Underground coal mines currently yield around 20% of coal produced but are responsible for 70% of fugitive emissions,” she said.
Williams added that Ferguson's launch is a positive step forward.
"The [funding] will help to build on the work of the coal industry to minimise fugitive emissions from coal mining and is an important partnering initiative to complement other industry, Australian and state government initiatives to develop low emissions coal technologies."