The impact of Galilee Basin development on employment in existing coal regions

by Cameron Murray, Bill Browne and Rod Campbell

Development of the Galilee Basin would displace production in other coal regions. Galilee mines would be more automated and less job-intensive than existing mines. Based on coal industry analysis, central estimates of employment reduction are 9,100 in the Hunter Valley, 2,000 in the Bowen Basin & 1,400 in the Surat Basin compared to a no-Galilee scenario. Galilee mines are likely to employ between 7,840 and 9,800 people, resulting in overall negative impact on coal jobs.

With global coal demand stable or declining, production from new mines will displace production in existing mines. Large scale coal development in the Galilee Basin in Queensland will significantly increase the supply of traded thermal coal and decrease coal prices. Lower prices will reduce investment in other Australian coal regions, and by extension employment in the mines of those regions.

New Galilee Basin mines will be large and highly automated, meaning they will employ fewer people per tonne of coal production. Adani have stated that in their project eventually “everything will be autonomous from mine to port.” Automated Galilee Basin mines will come at the expense of relatively job-intensive mines in other regions.

Industry analysts Wood Mackenzie modelled the effects of Galilee Basin production on other coal mining regions – the Hunter Valley, Bowen Basin and Surat Basin. They estimate that Galilee Basin production of 150 million tonnes per year would reduce coal volumes in other areas by 116 million tonnes in 2035 relative to a baseline scenario with no Galilee Basin development.

This paper estimates the effect on jobs of this relative reduction in production from established coal regions. Three methods are used to estimate this impact:

  • Applying average labour productivity of existing coal mines to relative reduction in coal volume.
  • Applying marginal labour productivity of existing coal mines to relative reduction in coal volume.
  • Analysing estimated workforce of mines identified as being delayed or cancelled by Galilee Basin development

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