Speaking at the NSW Minerals Council Environment and Community Conference in Terrigal on August 15, MacDonald said the industry must take a stand against "selfish" political parties that paint them as water hungry environment destroyers.
In regional NSW alone mining provided 18,000 direct jobs in 2005-06, with the state's total mineral production value of $11.7 billion.
The Hunter Valley coal industry alone produced more than 96 million tonnes for that period and provided 70% of the total direct employment in the NSW coal industry, or about 8650 jobs.
MacDonald told the 250 delegates at the conference that while environmental management used to be of minor priority to mining companies it is now one of the key areas of research and development in the industry, achieving great results.
He highlighted this by officially launching the NSW Minerals Council Rehabilitation by Design Practice Notes, a collaborative project involving academics, industry professionals, consultants and government to put together practical information on minesite rehabilitation.
The notes include information on surface water management, landform design and reconstruction, topsoil management and maintenance and monitoring.
In highlighting the industry's environmental responsibility evolution, the minister praised the work of mining companies in the water management field, particularly sites that had employed water sharing, re-use and saving technology.
He said figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics had identified the mining industry used just 1.1% of the total water consumption in NSW and returned the highest value per cubic metre of water used, at $80.
He explained that mining companies are aware of water issues and are proactive in minimising water extraction from natural reserves.
In the last financial year BHP Billiton Illawarra Coal used 2190 megalitres of water at its Appin, Douglas, West Cliff and Dendrobium collieries.
Of this volume 83% was recycled, with the remainder purchased from Sydney Water.
Illawarra Coal has recently increased its percentage of recycled water to 95% with the commissioning of its desalination plant at the Douglas project that treats and re-uses 2ML of saline mine water a day.
MacDonald also highlighted achievement in the cutting of greenhouse gas emissions through clean coal technology development in the industry.
He urged mining companies to publicise their environmental initiatives and take pride in their environmental achievements to counteract negative public perceptions.
NSWMC chairman and Illawarra Coal president Colin Bloomfield echoed MacDonald's sentiment and agreed the industry has undergone an image transition period in recent years.
Bloomfield said the concept of corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability as being in the realm of "marketing executives and spin doctors" was a thing of the past.
He said the reputation of the industry is beginning to make positive progress as a result of many successful projects throughout the country and overseas.