NSW coal ready to be revitalised: Minister McLeay

NEW South Wales Mineral Resources Minister Paul McLeay – who was recently appointed to the role after his predecessor Ian Macdonald left in controversial circumstances – outlines his vision for the state’s mining industry in an interview with ILN editor Lou Caruana.
NSW coal ready to be revitalised: Minister McLeay NSW coal ready to be revitalised: Minister McLeay NSW coal ready to be revitalised: Minister McLeay NSW coal ready to be revitalised: Minister McLeay NSW coal ready to be revitalised: Minister McLeay

Paul McLeay

Lou Caruana

The NSW coal industry is a vital industry for the state. How will the whole of government approach help alleviate some of the infrastructure and planning issues that have slowed down its progress in the past?


Coal mining currently accounts for about 85% of the state’s mining income and around 25% of its export income. Around 13,500 are employed in direct mining industry. Moreover, many regional towns and communities are dependent on the jobs generated by mining and its associated industries.


Mining is an important part of our economy; that is why we are putting together a Ministerial Coal Mining Taskforce to tackle issues head on.


Infrastructure is high on the agenda; we will be looking at streamlining logistics and removing overlapping and unnecessary red tape.


By strengthening the links between government departments we can ensure a stronger, more efficient coal industry from pit to port.


The issues of dust and other environmental issues will grow in importance as mining development and urban expansion encroach on each other’s boundaries. How will the new government processes manage this process in the future?


It puts the right people together in the right place. The opportunity to have experts in fields including mining, finance, planning, health and environmental managements is invaluable. It means more time directly addressing land use issues.


One of the key tasks of the sub-committee is to provide an overarching strategy to guide investment in the industry. Through this we can anticipate community concerns in contentious areas and find solutions.


The taskforce will also develop targeted strategies to deal with the specific issues in each coalfield, with a particular emphasis on minimising the cumulative impacts of mining in areas such as the Hunter Valley


The strategy will address each of these issues carefully and lead to balanced outcomes, driving the coal industry forward.


The new regions of the Gunnedah Basin and the upper Hunter will continue to attract investment as it is developed. Will the government ensure that competing land interest claims by rural concerns are fairly weighed up against legitimate mining expansion?


The government puts great effort into achieving a balance between these competing land uses.


By engaging directly with stakeholders the government is often capable of solving problems before they occur. When disagreement does crop up, we are well equipped in delivering practical outcomes.


However, there is no zero sum game; around the state we see mining companies operating profitable farms on their own lease sites and farmers opening their gates to lucrative mining agreements.


Is there a need to improve the competitiveness of the state’s coal mining industry versus Queensland which is attracting more investment funds and developing larger projects?


NSW’s combination of raw resource power and world-leading infrastructure makes it Australia’s premier state for coal development. We have four world-class coal provinces with more than 30 coal mine projects and extensions proposed over the next decade.


We currently have plans for constructing the worlds biggest coal loader at Newcastle to keep up with the demands of new markets, including a 320% increase in coal exports last year to China.


We are also leaders industry innovation; the NSW government is working with industry through partnerships with organisations such as the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC), Coal21 and the CSIRO to develop clean coal technologies.


It’s not just Queensland that should watch out, it’s the world.


Does there need to be an overhaul of the state’s health and safety legislation as well as infrastructure, rail and ports reform to make the industry more competitive?


The NSW government is continually seeking all opportunities to make the coal mining industry safer and more competitive.


We are currently working towards implementing a national standard for OH&S. This will make health and safety legislation tighter, clearer and more efficient.


Furthermore, the Keneally government is committed to implementing all 31 recommendations of the Wran Mine Safety Review through consultation with industry and unions.


In terms of infrastructure reform, the NSW government has also been working closely with the coal industry over the past two years to develop the Hunter Coal Export Framework, a historic agreement on managing coal exports from the region.


The framework came into effect on January 1, this year. It will help boost the coal chain’s planned infrastructure expansions including $5 billion worth of new port and rail infrastructure which is set to double coal export capacity in the next five years.


Through this we expect to boost export revenue by $6.5 billion each year, creating up to 25,000 jobs across the coal chain.

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