Hunter Coal and the Economy

Coal mining has long been important to the culture and economy of the Hunter Valley, and in the shires of Singleton and Muswellbrook it remains central as a job provider and foundation of the local economy.

Up to 37% of the available jobs in Singleton and Muswellbrook are in coal mining, and thousands of businesses in the area supply to the mines and depend on them.

Coal mining supports many families and businesses in the central Hunter, but being so dependent on the mining industry comes with a heavy price. Coal mining is boom-bust, and when the market takes a dive and the mines wind back, thousands of people lose their jobs and have no other local opportunities available. Businesses close down and communities suffer. In the last mining downturn of 2014 the Hunter’s unemployment rate rose 16%.

On top of that, serious doubts are emerging about the medium- to long-term demand for Hunter coal, as renewable energy begins to out-compete coal-fired power stations around the world. The Hunter’s coal mines produce thermal coal for power stations and are heavily export-oriented. The fortunes of the Hunter mining industry are tied to demand for coal-fired electricity around the world, particularly in Asia. And demand for coal is expected to keep going down, perhaps rapidly.

For a lot of reasons, it makes sense for the Hunter to diversify its economy. Most people can see that. In fact, 9 out of 10 people we’ve surveyed in Singleton and Muswellbrook want a plan to be less reliant on coal mining.

The Hunter Renewal project aims to engage the people, businesses, and organisations of the Hunter in developing a new vision for our region, one that includes:

  • Skills, training, education
    • including transition opportunities for coal industry workers
  • Protecting and growing our sustainable industries
    • including agriculture, thoroughbred horses, vineyards, and tourism
  • Nurturing new industries
    • including renewable energy, manufacturing, value-added agricultural industries
  • Democracy and empowerment
    • including regional decision-making and self-determination, youth empowerment, fairness and justice.
  • Lifestyle and amenity
    • including social services, environment, public transport, civic projects.
  • Coordination and governance
    • including funding and government policy
  • Mine site and landscape rehabilitation
    • including mapping necessary work going forward