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Survey reveals Muswellbrook locals want coal royalties hiked again

A door-to-door survey of a Hunter Valley mining town has shown that locals believe they're getting shortchanged by the coal industry. Survey results suggest that nearly all residents of Muswellbrook think both their town and New South Wales are being ripped off. 

A large majority of residents wants higher coal royalties to fund increased public investment in the region, especially in social services, economic diversification, and land restoration. Anonymised survey results are available here

Volunteers with Hunter Renewal conducted doorstep interviews with 300 Muswellbrook locals between September 2023 and May 2024. They found that:

  • 98% of residents think more of the state’s coal royalties revenue should be invested in the Upper Hunter; and

  • 87% of residents think NSW coal royalty rates should be further lifted beyond the new rates which apply from July this year.

  • A large majority of residents identified each of the following items as a ‘High Priority’ for public spending in the Upper Hunter:

    • Social and community services (85%);

    • Public infrastructure to support economic diversification (80%);

    • Restoring mine-owned land to create jobs and protect biodiversity (78%);

    • Establishing a Hunter Regional Authority empowered to manage economic diversification and landscape restoration (70%);

    • Reskilling mine and power station workers for jobs in new industries (64%).

Hunter Renewal organiser Steve Phillips said: 

“Muswellbrook is surrounded by coal mines that raised close to a billion dollars in public revenue last year, but it remains one of the most disadvantaged towns in the state. 

“The residents of Muswellbrook cop the brunt of the harm that coal mining inflicts on health, on the cost of living, on social inequality and community cohesion. But very few of the economic returns from the industry flow back to the town. 

“It should be no surprise that most local residents think that coal royalties should be increased, and that more of that revenue should be invested in the Upper Hunter.

“The coal industry’s profits need to be reinvested into mining-dependent communities in the Hunter Valley. The region’s transition away from coal has begun, and this offers big potential but many risks. Substantial government intervention and major public funding are needed to ensure the Hunter can thrive in a post-coal economy.

“Yet the NSW Government continues to dither and dally with its Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund. At least $75 million sits in a kitty intended to facilitate economic diversification for coal mining regions in transition. No projects have been funded.

“The Hunter is being ripped off by the mining industry. We call on the NSW Government to ensure the region's transition from coal is funded by the profits from that industry.”


  • NSW coal royalty rates will lift by 2.6% in July 2024. The new rate for open cut mines will be 10.8% of the coal’s market value. This increase in royalty rates is expected to lift NSW revenue by $2.7 billion over the four years to December 2027.

  • The quantum of the increase was heavily influenced by the mining industry. In announcing the rate rise, the NSW Treasurer boasted that the reform had been shaped by “[t]wo roundtables, attended by 13 mining companies… [s]even individual meetings [with] major mine operators … [t]wenty written submissions from … the coal sector [and detailed] consultation with affected companies”.

  • The Resources for Regions program was scrapped by the NSW Government in 2023. This move was widely opposed by local governments in the Hunter and other mining regions, where the program had directed significant and much needed public investment.

  • The Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund was initiated by the former Coalition government in 2022, and has been continued by the Labor government. The purpose of the fund is ‘to alleviate economic impacts’ from the decline of the coal industry by supporting diversification projects in mining regions. $25 million per annum is invested into the fund, but no projects have been funded.

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