Promise of job surge as coal industry goes niche
QUEENSLAND'S Bowen Basin could be on the cusp of another mining boom, with demand for coal used in steel making forecast to soar over the next decade.
Despite calls for the world to wean itself off coal to battle global warming, new modelling suggests unstoppable hunger for steel could see the equivalent of a new mine added to Queensland every year until 2030.
Global appetite for steel driven by China and India is expected to drive metallurgical coal consumption by close to 100 million tonnes over 13 years.
The boost from 275Mt in 2017 to 372Mt in 2030 represents more than 50 per cent of Australia's current exports, which are the largest in the world, according to new industry forecasts commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia.
Predicting a surge in jobs and investment for the state, a report by Commodity Insights found Queensland's Bowen Basin could add "the equivalent of a large export mine ... to the market every year to 2030" if it capitalised on the demand.
But the report warned multiple levels of government approvals were hampering development and posed a challenge to the sector.
The predictions take into account emissions reductions targets agreed by countries at the Paris Climate Change summit, suggesting international plans to tackle global warming will not hold back voracious demand for coal.
Minerals Council chief Tania Constable said the estimates in the report were conservative and suggested there was vast opportunity for Queensland's coal industry.
"Australian met coal from Queensland's Bowen Basin is the best steel-making coal in the world," she said.
"We are ideally placed, in terms of high coal quality, proximity to key markets in Asia, reliable supply and infrastructure availability, to share in coal demand growth to 2030 and beyond."
Another recent report commissioned by the mining industry also predicted continued fast growth in thermal coal used to generate electricity.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week called for coal power to be phased out by 2050 to stop a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures, which would cause ocean levels to rise and threaten widespread devastation.
But Australia's Chief Scientist Alan Finkel said governments should focus on ways to reduce emissions but said this did not necessarily mean an end to the coal industry.
"People paint themselves into an anti-coal corner or a pro-coal corner but the only question of relevance is to look at the atmospheric emissions," he told Sky News.