Queensland's coal industry overview
An overview of the Queensland coal industry
Coal is the most greenhouse-intensive fossil fuel and the leading cause of global climate change. Queensland, as the largest coal exporting state in the largest coal exporting country in the world, is literally at the ‘coal face’ of difficult decisions on climate change.
Queensland’s coal production, exports and revenue
In 2009, the state’s 52 coal mines produced a record 195 million tonnes of coal, generating $33.2 billion in export revenue. Queensland is a major player in the international coal market, exporting 168 Mt of coal in 2009 that accounted for 20% of the global trade. The industry generated $3.22 billion in coal royalties, accounting for 9% of the total income of the Queensland Government for the 2008-09 financial year.
Approximately 85% of Queensland coal is exported, supplying around 45% of coking coal and 6% of thermal coal to the world market. Queensland coal exports are roughly equal to those of Canada, the USA and China combined. In 2009, Queensland exported to 47 countries, with major consumers Japan (36%), Korea (15%) and India (13%), which combined for 63% of Queensland coal sales.
Coal and climate change
The coal industry is Queensland’s leading contributor to climate change, amounting to around 394 million tonnes (Mt) of greenhouse gas emissions per year. These emissions are 2.5 times the combined domestic emissions for the entire state, which stood at 160 Mt in 2008, including stationary energy, transport, fugitive emissions, industrial processes, agriculture, waste, and land use, land use change and forestry. Additionally, the mining, processing and transportation of coal contributes enormously to greenhouse gas production.
The Queensland Government’s commitment to coal expansion has the direct consequence of reducing our ability to prevent climate change. The 2010-11 budget, along with the current $700 million expansion of the coal industry, commits an extra $18 million for an "...exploration program to develop major new resource provinces". In comparison, it only provides $47 million for investment in renewable energy initiatives.
Plans for coal expansion
The Queensland Government is looking to more than double our coal production and exports by 2030. Even at conservative estimates, this will emit an additional 460 million tonnes of CO2 per annum into the atmosphere – equivalent to the annual emissions of 65 average coal-fired power stations.
The Government invested $25.5 billion of public funds to provide infrastructure required to meet the Queensland coal industry's short- and medium term needs according to the Coal Infrastructure Program of Actions (2009). The Government is also supporting the expansion of existing coal rail lines and all of the five major coal ports, providing $864 million for coal network tracks and new and upgraded locomotives and wagons. In addition, plans are underway for two new rail lines and the construction of a new coal terminal on Wiggins Island, which will make Gladstone the second largest coal port in world. There are currently 28 new mines or expansion projects in various stages of development across the state.
Food and water security
Many proposed coal mines are located on the state’s prime agricultural land, including mines at Haystack Plains and the Felton Valley on the Darling Downs and at Kunioon, near Kingaroy. Once mined, this land's food or crop production will be hampered. Additionally, coal mining causes water pollution from the downstream effects of mining. These impacts mean that expanding the coal industry poses a threat to a sustainable future for Queensland.
Employment in the coal industry
The Queensland coal industry directly employed 20,267 people in 2009. While direct employment in the industry is quite low due to support industries and indirect jobs, many regions and communities in Queensland are almost totally dependent on the coal industry as a source of employment and as a catalyst for the growth of industry and service sectors in regional Queensland.
It is therefore crucial that the state and federal governments commit to a socially just and culturally relevant transition away from the coal industry to support such populations.