Coal: building Australia's future

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Coal is a cornerstone Australian industry built on the efforts of hard working Australians with the majority in regional areas.

It has a strong future which can meet the requirements of a modern economy.

The industry employed around 50,000 workers in 2020 with another 120,000 indirect jobs supported by the coal industry.

In 2019-20 Australia exported 213 Mt of thermal (energy) coal worth $20.6 billion and 177 Mt of metallurgical (steel-making) coal worth $34.6 billion.

The Australian coal industry paid over $5.2 billion in royalties in 2019-20, including:

  • Queensland - $3.5 billion
  • New South Wales - $1.6 billion
  • Victoria - $78 million

The Australian economy continues to rely on coal as a source of affordable, reliable electricity. For example, coal supplied 68.6 per cent of electricity to the National Electricity Market in 2019, gas 9.1 per cent, hydro 6.7 per cent and other renewable energy (wind, solar farms and solar PV) 15.9 per cent. Updated information is available from the University of Melbourne’s OPEN NEM widget.

Australian coal is in demand for energy (both electricity and process heat, which is used in the production of alumina, chemicals, machinery and asphalt production), cement and steel making.

Its high-energy, low ash characteristics ideally match the requirements for modern, high efficiency coal-fired power plants being built throughout Asia, while our high grade metallurgical coals are amongst the best in the world for modern steel making.

Australian coal can also reduce emissions when compared to lower-quality coal from other suppliers.

Supplier reliability, proximity to key markets and good infrastructure availability puts Australia in a strong position to take advantage of growing demand from customers in Japan, China, India, Taiwan, South Korea and Europe as well as newer buyers in Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Coal mining in Australia is a sophisticated and hi-tech activity.

The development and adoption of low emissions technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, is required to ensure the future use of coal is aligned with the Paris Agreement commitments.

Continuous improvements in mining technology, occupational health and safety and environmental performance have ensured that Australia is an efficient and reliable producer of high-quality thermal and metallurgical coals for the international market.

For further information see Best in Class: Australia’s Bulk Commodity Giants