The Australian coal industry future developments

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 85, No. 963, 1992

Trevor McGiddy, Shell Australia Limited, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Australia's prosperity relies significantly on income generated from exports of resources and agricultural products. In 1989-1990, coal was Australia's most valuable export commodity, contributing A$5.7 billion or 14% of all export income. The abundance and quality of its coal resources and the proximity of Australia to the rapidly developing economies of Southeast Asia were significant factors that encouraged export-oriented growth and investment and will continue to do so. On the other hand, the 1980s highlighted the sensitivity of the industry to international changes in supply and demand, currency and socio-political forces. Following many years of disappointing returns for investors, mainly as a result of falling Australian dollar coal prices, resolve will be necessary to maintain competitiveness with resource-rich nations. In recent years, operators, unions and governments have begun to embark on a long overdue rationalization of domestic issues in a bid to increase productivity and reduce costs. The nature of mining operations is also changing; deeper surface mines and the growth oflongwall mining will require the development of new technology and skills. Other challenges emerging from the international environmental debate will require that Australia responds appropriately to demands for cleaner fuels, energy efficiency and environmental responsibility. The future development of the Australian coal industry will therefore be influenced by its own ability to become more efficient and mature in the production of quality coal products and through rational international response to environmental questions.
Keywords: Coal industry, Australian coal industry.