Coal mine approvals do not provide jobs

Published: December 16, 2015

News today that Glencore has mothballed a state government approved coal mining operation in the Hunter Valley shows that approving new coal mines does not provide jobs, says the Lock The Gate Alliance, which is calling on the NSW Government to act to manage the impact of the structural transition underway in the thermal coal industry.

Glencore announced that the Blakefield North longwall mine, which was originally approved in 2003 and has been modified several times since, would not begin operations in 2017 to replace the winding down Blakefield South operation, as previously planned. The project has been mothballed in response to a very depressed coal market which shows no signs of improving.

According to the Lock The Gate Alliance, recent project approvals have not delivered on jobs promises, and a new approach is needed for the region: to provide meaningful, sustainable, long term employment opportunities.

“The NSW Government is currently assessing no less than ten applications for major coal mine expansions or new mines in the Hunter Valley, and several big expansions have been approved in the past year,” said Steve Phillips, Hunter regional coordinator for Lock The Gate.

“At the same time, thousands of Hunter coal miners have been given the sack, and the whole world is talking about the end of the thermal coal industry. In Paris last week, the world agreed to limit global warming to less than two degrees – scientists tell us that means almost all the world's remaining coal reserves must stay in the ground.”

“Financial analysts around the world –  including Goldman Sachs and Citibank – have warned a structural decline is underway, but the NSW Government seems to be on another planet”, said Phillips.

“Approving new mines does not provide jobs or job security for the Hunter – in fact it does the complete opposite. Even when approved, these projects are unlikely to ever proceed. They are not viable, and they won't be.

“Instead, these projects chain the Hunter Valley to a dying industry, lock out sustainable alternative industries, and let multinational mining companies off the hook by allowing them to postpone their rehabilitation requirements indefinitely.”

“The Hunter desperately needs a new approach. We don't need more coal mine approvals – we need a plan for a jobs-rich and prosperous Hunter region in a post-coal world.”

Lock The Gate dismissed comments by Federal Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon, who said that Glencore's announcement “shouldn't be used to talk down the coal industry's future in the region”.

“Wishful thinking and clinging to the past will not create jobs or a sustainable future for the Hunter,” said Phillips. “Instead of burying his head in the sand and telling the rest of us to stop talking about the reality facing our region, Mr Fitzgibbon should be standing up for his constituents and leading the discussion on economic diversification in the Hunter.”

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