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Coal data shows productivity decline

Nanjing Night Net

DATED STATS: Stephen Galilee says the results are nearly three years old.

PRODUCTIVITY in the Hunter’s open-cut coalmines has almost halved in a decade, according to the latest state government yearbook of coal statistics.

Detailed research published in the 2013 New South Wales Coal Industry Profile shows that saleable coal output per employee in the Singleton coalfields had fallen from 15,650 tonnes in 2001-02 to 8830 tonnes in 2010-11, the most recent figure in the book.

This figure, and other declining measures contained in the Profile give statistical weight to anecdotal accounts of falling productivity in the years of the coal boom, as companies spent heavily on big increases in output.

But Minerals Council of NSW chief executive Stephen Galilee said a lot had happened since the figures in the book were collated.

‘‘These results are nearly three years old and therefore fail to take into account the significant productivity gains made by the industry over the last 18 months in particular,’’ Mr Galilee said.

With earlier editions of the Profile, open-cut productivity at Singleton can be traced from the 1990s, starting with a saleable output per employee of 9650 tonnes a year in 1996-97 to a peak of 16,580 tonnes in 2000-01.

Employment in the Singleton and Gunnedah regions stayed at about 5000 from the late 1990s to 2005, hitting 6800 in 2006, then 8700 in 2008, 11,100 in 2010 and almost 12,000 in 2011.

Across the state, the number of mine workers has increased from 13,392 in 2007 to 21,126 in 2011.

More recent figures from quarterly government bulletins show employment peaked at 24,989 in June 2012, falling back to 21,953 in September last year.

The NSW coal industry has been dominated by export production for many years, with statewide exports rising from 91.5million tonnes in 2006-07 to 121.1million in 2010-11.

The drop in demand for electricity in NSW is reflected in coal consumption by the state’s power stations, which rose from 26.6million tonnes in 2001 to 30.1million tonnes in 2007, falling steadily since then to less than 26.1million in 2010-11.

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