Pressure is building on the state and federal governments to come up with a formal strategy to help Hunter mining communities deal with the industry downturn.
BHP Billiton announced on Tuesday it would cut 290 jobs from its Mount Arthur mine near Muswellbrook, bringing to 1000 the number of anticipated job losses in regional mines this year. Others are set to go at Drayton (500), Donaldson (90-plus), Bulga (60) and West Wallsend (100).
Federal Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon is advocating the development of a regional strategy to promote economic diversity in mining areas and Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush has called on the NSW Government to commit $30 million to an Upper Hunter Economic Development Corporation to help affected communities transition to new industries and create job opportunities.
Cr Rush said with markets retreating and coal prices dropping, it was “becoming increasingly clear this is no longer a cyclical downturn, but a structural decline for the future of thermal coal”.
“The State Government needs to ensure that areas that have contributed so much for so long to the state’s economy are protected during this period of very strong economic headwinds,” Cr Rush said.
Mr Fitzgibbon said job losses and the halving of coal prices over three years had prompted him to lobby for a transition strategy. He has proposed the Hunter branch of Regional Development Australia oversee the building of a business case for government support .
“It is not in anyone’s interests to accelerate the demise of coal but market forces indicate that in the long run, it will play a smaller role in our local economy,” he said.
“I am proposing a consultative three-stage process that will establish a case that government intervention is justified, determine where the money should be spent, then develop a robust funding submission.” To read more click here.