Direct employment in the NSW mining industry has increased 107 per cent in the past four years, and with job cuts being announced in other sectors, the NSW Minerals Council says the strong growth in mining jobs shows the industry could help protect the state from future economic difficulties.
But chief executive Stephen Galilee warned that uncertainty created by the wrong policy settings could hammer investment and growth.
“Given every direct mining job generates at least three additional indirect jobs, the wrong policy settings could also cost jobs beyond the mining sector,” he said.
The industry body pointed to the federal government’s carbon tax as a strong headwind for the sector, arguing it should be tax. Mr Galilee said Australian miners would be at a disadvantage, because no other county taxed coal mining under a carbon pricing scheme.
Instead, countries like Indonesia, Colombia and South Africa will be able to take advantage of global demand at the expense of Australian jobs, government revenues and investment, but without any environmental gain because the coal not produced in Australia, will be simply be produced elsewhere.
Job losses are already being felt across struggling sectors. Aluminium producer Alcoa has put its smelter in Geelong, Victoria, under review, which could cost up to 600 jobs. BHP Billiton is to cut 155 employees and contractors from its West Australian nickle division, even though it hopes to redeploy most of these elseswhere in the group. On top of that, 250 jobs are also being shed from two aluminium smelters near Newcastle.
However, NSW is booming. Data from Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate the number of people directly employed in the sector skyrocketed from 22, 041 four years ago to 45, 708. Mr Galilee said in the Hunter Valley, the Illawarra and the Central West, mining was delivering strong economic activity that could help to counter the difficulties being faced in other sectors and regions.
“Our industry can be a stabilizing influence on the NSW economy and generates terrific returns for the people of the state through successive rounds of business activity and royalty payments to the government – tipped to total $8.5bn over the next four years,” he said.