PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Stronger commodity prices have resulted in an increase in the number of jobs in the coal exploration sector, with new data from the Queensland government revealing that employment in the sector grew by more than 3 000 in the six months to November.
“Coal mining jobs are up 9% to 22 000 and job growth is forecast to improve further with new operations like QCoal and JFE Steel’s Byerwen joint venture and resuming operations like Stanmore’s Isaac Plains,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told state Parliament on Tuesday.
“Investment in exploration has been climbing, with coal and metals exploration expenditure up by A$33-million to A$105-million over the six months to last November, driving an increase of 1 500 jobs to 13 770.”
The Premier said bright spots were showing in the metals sector as well.
“Base metals prices have improved significantly after a tough 2015, with zinc prices rising 35% and lead, by 32%, over the six months to December.
“Employment fell slightly in the last six months of 2016, but should stabilise as operations at CuDeco’s Rocklands copper project ramp up. Altona’s Cloncurry copper is moving closer to development, MMG’s Dugald River zinc project is on track and Rio Tinto’s A$1.9-billion bauxite project, Amrun, is progressing,” she said.
Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said Queensland had the potential to emerge as the global leader in bauxite trade with large reserves of good quality bauxite, with the rare earths of the Diamantina the next frontier.
“China's bauxite demand growth is forecast to be significant over the next 15 years as its own domestic supply runs out,” Lynham said.
“There’s real opportunity here for Queensland’s bauxite producers in the Far North, led by Rio Tinto’s Amrun expansion on Cape York and several smaller bauxite projects in the pipeline.
“Resources recovery is positive news for jobs and businesses in regional Queensland, as we continue to diversify our economy into the future.”
The Queensland Resources Council has welcomed the new data and support from the Queensland government, with CEO Ian Macfarlane saying that after a rough few years, there were definitely green shoots across the entire sector.
Macfarlane pointed out that despite the tough operating conditions, many producers have reached record productivity and export levels during the so-called ‘bust’.
“The numbers don’t lie, recent employment data shows that there has been a rise in jobs in the coal sector as well as increased exploration expenditure. Existing operations are producing at record levels, projects that have been on the drawing board have received the green light, and we would anticipate a significant amount of jobs once the Byerwen, New Acland and Carmichael mines begin construction.
“Let’s not forget our world-leading liquefied natural gas (LNG) export industry and the announcements of new natural gas projects including Senex’s Western Surat gas project, Arrow’s Tipton project and QGC/Shell’s Ruby project.”
Macfarlane noted that exploration in the state had received a boost from the Queensland government with a geoscience data initiative worth A$4-billion that will standardise 60 years’ worth of seismic data and make it available to industry.
“This is a good investment and the government should expect to see its return on investment through future royalties from resource projects. Geoscience data underpins all resource development and investment into ensuring the data is accessible will result in increased exploration activity and discoveries.”