OPINION: Future of coal burns brighter than ever

THEY say never let the facts get in the way of a good story. In the case of anti-mining advocates, never let the facts get in the way of rusted-on ideology. It’s unfortunate, however, when your views are so utterly contradicted with such immediacy.

On the very day Tim Buckley – a long-time anti-mining advocate – declared that we must all face the ‘‘fact’’ that global demand for coal is in decline, new data emerged showing the exact opposite is true.

In the Newcastle Herald on Thursday, Mr Buckley claimed: ‘‘In the energy sector, such a seismic shift is under way. The seaborne thermal coal market is entering a permanent and structural decline.’’ Unfortunately, these sort of myths are repeated as often as possible by those who oppose coal mining, in the hope it will influence others. However, Mr Buckley’s myths are not supported by the facts.

The latest coal export data shows global demand for NSW coal remains strong, with coal export volumes increasing by 3.6per cent over the past financial year. It’s yet another year of coal export growth, and more NSW coal is now being exported than ever before.

NSW coal exports are up 9per cent to Korea and 10 per cent to Taiwan, and are steady to Japan. Demand from India has grown strongly, with our exports rising by 110per cent.

Japan continues to be NSW’s biggest market, comprising 40per cent of total exports, followed by China at 18per cent, Korea 17per cent, and Taiwan 11per cent.

Ideological opponents argue that coal is in decline because of an economic slowdown in China, and coal exports to that nation have recently fallen. It’s true that China is an important market for NSW coal.

However, China’s share of our export market is less than half that of our biggest customer, Japan. And, despite the recent drop in volumes to China, its share of NSW coal exports has grown from just 1per cent to 18per cent from 2008 to 2015.

Mr Buckley also dismisses the demand-driven performance of our largest coal port. Earlier this month, Port Waratah Coal Services announced it had broken the record for coal loaded for export in a single day – 495,000 tonnes.

This reflects the trend in strong demand for NSW coal, which continues to be by far this state’s most valuable export.

Expert international analysis also contradicts assertions made by anti-coal advocates. The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2040, global electricity demand will rise by 50per cent, and that by 2040 coal-fired power will still provide around a quarter of world energy needs.

In the Hunter, 11,000 workers and their families rely on coal mining for their livelihoods. That’s in addition to more than 4200 local businesses and their employees supplying the mining sector. And the economic activity generated by mining underpins the strength of communities right up and down the valley.

NSW coal will continue to play a prominent role in powering an energy-hungry planet for decades to come.

Stephen Galilee is chief executive officer of the NSW Minerals Council

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