The Australian coal industry is one of the largest employers in the country. More than 55,000 people are directly employed in the industry and a further 100,000 are indirectly employed, mainly in regional Australia. More that 1.1 million Australians are employed in energy intensive industries.
Each year wages and salaries for staff employed by coal mines total $4.4 billion, with a further $5 billion spent on contractors, subcontractors and to businesses. The coal industry spends $16 billion each year on goods and services in Australia.
Since European settlement in Australia the coal industry has played a leading role in the development of some of the country's largest regional centres and major ports, particularly in NSW and Queensland.
As those early mining centres become increasingly urbanised and the accessible deposits depleted, and as the transport infrastructure and mining methods have developed, companies have moved to develop the more remote deposits and, with them, the neighbouring rural communities.
Coal mining operations bring major flow-on benefits to all sectors of the local community. Inevitably, the district's population increases and medical, shopping, sporting and entertainment facilities are enhanced.
Additional jobs are created in ancillary industries like tyre and fuel suppliers and engineering works. Mining companies also contribute directly to improving road, rail and air services.
The Australian coal industry is also a major education sponsor, spending millions of dollars each year on training, scholarships and educational programmes and is a generous contributor to community projects.
Photo by Robert Billington, courtesy of NSWMC