Mining’s impact on Queensland goes way beyond the cash it generates for the economy.
Mining’s impact on Queensland goes way beyond the cash it generates for the economy. Contributed

Gung ho to go ahead in 2012

EVEN the passing into law of what the resources industry called the world's biggest carbon tax couldn't dent the confidence of Queensland's miners in 2011.

The year started with devastating floods which halted production at most coal mines.

But in his end of year review, Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said he was confident the industry would continue to be the driving force of the State's economy.

The resource industry's impact and influence continued to grow in the Rockhampton region during 2011, he said.

In the Fitzroy region, centred on Rockhampton and Gladstone, 55% of all jobs are dependent on the sector.

Mr Roche said: "It's been a tough year, but Queensland's resource sector has weathered the storm and continues to be a major driver of Queensland's economy."

Indeed, according to figures published by the resources council, one in every five dollars spent in Queensland during 2011 came from mining and one in every eight Queensland jobs was supported by it.

Mr Roche said the sector provided a $25.2 billion stimulus to the economy - an increase of 13% on the previous year's spending by the coal and coal seam gas sectors.

"Importantly, what the results show is that spending is spread right across the State, with barely a postcode not experiencing the benefits of economic stimulus from the sector," he said.

Two thirds of jobs in the greater Mackay region are dependent on the resources industry. And it's the same in Mt Isa.

And that impact is on track to grow substantially.

According to the Queensland Resources Sector Growth Outlook study, there are 66 major projects either under study, committed or under construction.

The estimated spend by the industry to develop those projects between 2012 and 2020 is $142 billion.

"The study finds that if all the identified projects proceed, the resource sector could require an additional 40,000 workers in direct resource sector roles, generating an additional four to five jobs throughout the State for every direct resource sector position that is created," he said.

The full impact of the carbon tax may or may not have an influence on future growth.

Back in October, when the Federal Government finally got its carbon tax proposals through both houses of parliament, Mr Roche warned that thousands of jobs in the sector were under threat.

"The hugs and backslapping in Canberra are nothing compared with the level of excitement that this tax on Australia's key export industries is generating among our global competitors.

"The last time Australia made our competitors so happy was when the hugely discredited resource super profits tax was unveiled."

He said the world's biggest carbon tax had been introduced when none of Australia's global competitors was even contemplating one.

"Resource exporters in Canada, the United States, Indonesia, Africa and South America must be delighted that Australian MPs have voted to hand over a large chunk of the Australian resource sector's future growth and with it, thousands of jobs.

"New jobs, investment - and the emissions they generate - will simply shift to resource exporting countries that do not have a carbon tax.

"The global challenge to reduce carbon emissions will not be helped by Australia's unilateral actions but by concerted international effort," he said.

The fragile nature of the industry was confirmed at the start of the year when heavy rains which caused almost the whole of Queensland to be declared a flood disaster area, took a heavy toll on production.

Mine after mine in the Bowen Basin became idle as water either cut access roads or, worse, flooded pits and destroyed equipment.

At least 40 million tonnes of production was lost and seven months after the floods, the industry was working at only 80% capacity because of water that had to be cleared from mine sites.

Problems with contamination of water courses in 2008 meant that in 2011, the Queensland Government kept a much tighter rein on the mines, greatly restricting the recovery.

Coal companies are investing heavily in preparations for the next big wet.

Many of the region's mines have developed sophisticated on-site water storage, pipelines, pumps and water treatment plants.

But there are growing calls for all de-watering of mines to be halted until the water is treated to a high standard to avoid any chance that contamination can once again threaten the Fitzroy River and its feeder system.

It's one issue that the State Government and resources council will continue to debate in 2012 along with skills shortages, supporting mining communities and fly-in fly-out.

The impact of mining on Queensland's residents goes far beyond the amount of cash the industry generates and the money that's invested by multi-national corporations to gain access to the coal and minerals below the surface.

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