Opinion: Miners stand proud of their contribution

January 09, 2014

Originally published in the Newcastle Herald

NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee

Amid the usual debates about mining it can be easy to forget the real people throughout the Hunter Valley – the local miners, their families and those working in associated small businesses – that rely on mining to provide local jobs and deliver economic stability.

There are over 12,600 people working directly in mining in the Hunter.. When those working in associated industries that do business with mining companies are taken into account, 71,700 Hunter locals have at least some reliance on mining for their livelihood. So mining is an integral part of the Hunter, and has been for over 200 years.

The NSW Minerals Council this week released our full annual economic impact study into what mining actually delivers for the Hunter and NSW.  The report shows how the benefits of mining in the Hunter extend well beyond the mining sector itself and across communities up and down the Valley.

Mining companies spent $1.7 billion in wages for local employees and $4.6 billion in the Hunter last year with almost 5,000 local businesses that supplied goods or services to mining operations. This direct spending with these businesses in turn supported thousands of other businesses and jobs throughout the Hunter in a wide range of industries, from manufacturing and engineering to retail and hospitality.

In fact it is estimated that the total of $6.3 billion in direct mining spending in the Hunter generated around one third of all economic activity in the region in 2012-13. This is a big contribution, and with it comes big responsibilities.

Most Hunter miners live and raise a family in the communities near where mining takes place.  They are part of their local community and understand the need to support the hundreds of community organisations that play such an important role in the life of Hunter towns.

Our latest economic impact study found that in  2012-13, local mining companies voluntarily contributed over $8 million to 449 local community groups and charities across the Hunter community. The average contribution made to each community group was nearly $18,000.

While this may not seem a large amount of money to some, it is contributions like these that help local community groups continue to serve and support their local area.

This support has also been provided at a time when the industry is doing it tough and things are tight. A high Australian dollar, a fall in commodity prices and uncertainty with regard to NSW planning legislation has seen over 3,000 jobs lost in coal mining in NSW over the last 12 months.

In addition to the support provided to hundreds of smaller organisations, NSW Mining also supports other services vital to the Hunter. For example, in 2012 the NSW Minerals Council extended its 30 year commitment to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter service for another three years with a contribution of $270,000. Our long-term relationship with this life-saving community service is important to us, and I know the people working at the Rescue Helicopter Service are grateful for our support.

Hunter miners are determined to be good citizens of their local communities. We are proud of the Hunter and the contribution we make here, and we want the Hunter to be proud of us too.

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