Looking at the price graph for thermal coal shows how quickly the industry can go from boom to bust - like any commodity traded across the world.
In July last year thermal coal was selling for $US120/tonne fast forward 12 month and that price has dropped to around $US70/t. A similar price gyration occurred between 2011 and 2016 when the boom was $US130/t to the bust of $US48/t.
For the Singleton Local Government Area(LGA) that is described in a recent report by Singleton Council as being a 'single engine economy ' or one in which there is only one key industry that brings money into the region the risks of economic and social disruption are very real should thermal coal prices continue to decline.
Council's draft report on the 'Singleton Community and Economic Development Fund Policy' states 41 per cent of all jobs within the Singleton LGA are in the mining sector and that industry accounts for 64 per cent of Singleton's Gross Regional Product.
Highlighting the number of drive-in and drive -out mine workers (estimated at 9000 plus per day) is the fact only 25 per cent of local residents are employed in the mining industry.
Given these figures Council is planning to use mining Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPA) funds to establish a type of future fund with only the interest used on infrastructure and services in the LGA. In the past VPA monies have been spent on local projects rather than invested for the long term.
At the same time as this policy is going on public exhibition for the community to make submissions the NSW parliament has established an inquiry into the Sustainability of energy supply and resources.
This inquiry will be crucial to future of the Upper Hunter examining how best to support regional communities and diversify economies to make them less reliant on coal mining, whilst also assessing how to bring down power prices and clear the air with renewable energy.
The Committee will be examining prospects for renewable energy, trends and markets in energy supply and exports as well as the environmental, social and health impacts of energy supply and exports and opportunities for diversification in coal communities. The terms of reference for the inquiry:
- The capacity and economic opportunities of renewable energy.
- Emerging trends in energy supply and exports, including investment and other financial arrangements.
- The status of and forecasts for energy and resource markets.
- Effects on regional communities, water security, the environment and public health.
- Opportunities to support sustainable economic development in regional and other communities likely to be affected by changing energy and resource markets, including the role of government policies.
- Any other related matters.
Hunter Renewal will be hosting a submissions writing workshop on Saturday, August 31 , 2019 at 1pm - 2.30pm Singleton Diggers, York St.