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Friday, January 29, 2021

Hunter mining ‘stronger’ after the challenges of 2020

NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee has praised the spirit of the Hunter’s mining sector, especially in the midst of a world-wide pandemic.

And, with the Independent Planning Commission recently approving the Maxwell Underground Project at Jerrys Plains, he feels the future looks bright indeed.

In his opinion piece for Newcastle Weekly, with an eye on 2021, Mr Galilee believes the trials and tribulations they’ve collectively faced this year have “made us stronger together”.

The resilience of our miners and our mining community during 2020 has been absolutely amazing.

And, as we’ve done time and time again over many decades, the magnificent men and women of the Hunter have effectively dealt with all the challenges this year has thrown at them.

As an industry, we knew the first priority was to keep our miners, their families and our communities safe during the health crisis that has swept across the world.

Thanks to the commitment of the local mining workforce and our supplier business partners, we’ve been able to keep operating in the region while keeping our people COVID-19 safe.

This tremendous effort has been recognised by our political leaders on both sides of politics in NSW, who have regularly expressed their respect and support for our industry and those who work in it.

Thankfully, as 2020 drew to a close, there was some good news for our Hunter mining communities that will hopefully lead to new opportunities for jobs and investment in 2021.

Coal prices have recovered from the mid-year lows that followed the economic impact of COVID-19, and solid demand is expected to continue across our main export markets in the Asia-Pacific region over 2021.

The November 2020 State Budget delivered a win for mining communities, with a further $75 million in funding through the Resources for Regions program for 24 eligible mining-related local councils to invest in projects to improve their communities.

While there have been some jobs lost in our sector, the NSW Government’s Coal Strategy – released in 2020 – provides a welcome roadmap that will hopefully see more investment in mining projects and more mining positions in 2021.

There was a positive sign just before Christmas in this regard, with approval given for the Maxwell underground mining project near Muswellbrook, which had strong community support as well as support from the NSW Department of Planning.

The project will create about 250 construction jobs and 350 ongoing jobs for the Hunter region worth $55 million in annual wages once up and running.

There are more opportunities for jobs and investment in the Hunter’s mining sector in 2021 with nine local mining projects in the planning pipeline with the potential to deliver approximately 3,500 jobs and around $1.6 billion in investment for the region.

Communities across the Hunter deserve some new hope in 2021 and there are signs that a better year may be on the way.

Whatever 2021 might bring, challenges faced in 2020 have made us stronger together.

I wish all of our miners, their families, our suppliers and everyone living across the Hunter a safe, happy and prosperous 2021.

  • Stephen Galilee is the CEO of the NSW Minerals Council