In recent weeks there's been a series of very similar and misleading accusations about the Hunter mining sector made by a Canberra-based think-tank, a Point Piper millionaire and an Upper Hunter by-election candidate campaigning against then region's coal industry.
It's been claimed that demand for NSW's most valuable export commodity - coal - is declining.
While it's true that coal demand is flattening or falling in some global areas, demand for Hunter coal from our key export markets in Asia remains strong and this is expected to continue.
2019 was a record year for NSW coal exports. Despite COVID-19, volumes only fell slightly in 2020, with early indications that demand in 2021 will also be strong. Coal prices have also doubled since the middle of 2019, indicating further strength of demand for Hunter coal.
It's been claimed that unrestrained expansion of mining is occurring in the Hunter. In reality, there are fewer coal mines operating in the Hunter now than a decade ago.
In 2012 there were 20 mines operating in the Hunter. In 2021 there are 16 mines operating in the region - hardly the unrestrained expansion claimed by some. Furthermore, almost all planning applications for mining in the Hunter are for extensions to existing operations, not new mines.
It's been claimed that not enough is held in rehabilitation bonds and that rehabilitation is not an industry priority. In reality, enough is held in the NSW Government's bond scheme to ensure that every mine is rehabilitated in accordance with its obligations. The bond scheme is part of a rigorous regulatory framework and is regularly reviewed.
In the Upper Hunter, more than 13,000 hectares of land has been rehabilitated to high quality pasture, native vegetation and other final land uses. In NSW our rehabilitation programs are world-class and start as soon as mining operations commence.
Some have called for a "moratorium" on new mining projects because of unused production capacity in the Hunter coal sector.
This simplistic approach ignores the fact that all coal is not the same. It also ignores the reality of global coal markets where customers source different types and grades of coal from different mining operations for different purposes.
It also begs the question whether those making the claim would actually support increased coal production from existing operations? If so, our industry and those that rely on it would welcome such public support.
Stephen Galilee is the CEO of NSW Minerals Council
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