Shutdowns, job losses and the need to rely on the federal government's Jopkeeper wage subsidy was not an outcome many in our community expected for the industry during 2020

It gives us absolutely no joy to have our front pages dominated by stories devoted to the thermal coal mining industry's current struggles with low prices and limited demand.

Shutdowns, job losses and the need to rely on the federal government's Jopkeeper wage subsidy was not an outcome many in our community expected for the industry during 2020.

It is very hard to adjust to the new reality in a town, dominated economically, by the coal industry. Mortgages have to be paid, food bought and lives lived.

Some can hope this is simply a glitch due to the COVID-19 pandemic like our Federal member Joel Fitzgibbon who has hit the airwaves saying he believes there is a bright future for coal.

Maybe this is a repeat of the downturn of 2014 when job losses and shutdowns hit the industry only for it to rebound strongly a couple of years later.

But maybe that will not happen or if it does just briefly and only for some mines and some workers.

How about we really accept that coal is not some type of mythical substance like some want us to believe but simply a commodity like all commodities such oil, gas, wool, meat, wheat and copper.

Prices for all commodities are determined by demand and supply, not by government intervention despite their best efforts over the years, and when prices and demand fall then the industry has to adopt or cease to exist.

If structural change across the globe sees demand for thermal coal continue to decline then our community and its economy has to change.

Failure to change or transition will result in long term hardship whereas a planned transition may cause short term pain for long term benefit.

We like to call this a transition to a healthy future by that we mean a vibrant community based on a cohesive, resilient and diverse economy that improves our wellbeing and the environment.

A healthy future is what we should be providing our next generation.

To do so we must be making informed decisions based on science using emerging technologies and innovation to ensure that we have viable jobs for the future.

The pandemic has given us an opportunity to reshape our future, use it or waste it.