Over 142 million tonnes of coal from the Hunter reached international markets in 2012/2013.
As such, the region relies heavily on the mining industry, which contributes significantly to its local economy.
An estimated $4.5billion was spent by mining companies at almost 5000 local Hunter businesses in 2013/13, according to the NSW Minerals Council.
The Hunter also funds almost half of the $13 billion total mining industry contributions to the NSW state economy every year, boasting an impressive $6b from the region alone.
The inaugural Hunter Coal Festival - running over three weeks at Singleton, Muswellbrook and Newcastle - was established as a celebration of this success for the region that relies heavily on mining.
Along with bringing together the movers and shakers of the mining industry, the luncheon served as a valuable insight into opportunities on the horizon in the coming decades and post-mine life economics.
Key note speakers included managing executives from Rio Tinto, Glencore, Blackwoods, Coal Services and Bloomfield Coal.
Here's a quick overview of what the who’s who in mining had to say:
Ian Cribb, COO - Glencore
Ian Cribb has been the Chief Operating officer at Glencore Xtrata coal since March 2013 and has been in the industry for 41 years. Cribb believes this is the toughest period in the industry that he has seen since he started in 1974. This has been felt in the coal community with prices dropping since 2011 and unemployment rates following the same trend.
John Richards, CEO - Bloomfield
The Bloomfield Colliery is a family run company that has managed to stand its ground alongside some of the great global multi-nationals. John Richards took over as Managing Director and CEO in mid-2010. Richards predicts that the coal industry is still a couple of years away from a pickup. However, he is adamant Singleton will be a coal community well into the future as that is where the resources are.
Peter Boyd, Executive General Manager - Blackwoods
Blackwoods was founded in 1878 by James Blackwood and has grown to become Australia’s largest distributor of industrial engineering and safety workplace needs. Peter Boyd became Executive General Manager in September 2013, imparting his 22 years of industry experience to further grow and develop Blackwoods. Boyd admits that Blackwoods is also feeling the effects of the current industry downturn and therefore have had to cut down in many areas of the company. However, he made it clear that Blackwoods are totally committed to the industry and in times like these they want to find ways in which to add value to their products and the industry through offering new services.
Chris Salisbury, Managing Director – Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto is a leading global mining and metal company with a focus on finding, mining and processing the Earth’s mineral resources. The Managing director, Chris Salisbury, has been in the industry for 27 years and joined Rio Tinto shortly after joining the Queensland Resources Council Board in November 2013. Salisbury confirmed the common theme amongst the speakers by stating that this is the most brutal down turn that he has experienced through his time in the industry. He supported his statement with figures, proving a reduction in coal prices by $24 per tonne over the past couple of years. Salisbury believes that technology is the key to maintaining a competitive advantage into the future.
Lucy Flemming, CEO - Coal Services
Coal Services provides critical service and expertise to the NSW coal mining industry with a commitment to maintaining a safe workplace and healthy workforce. Armed with an extensive background in executive management across the public and private sectors, Lucy Flemming has been CEO and Managing Director of Coal Services since December 2011. Flemming reinforced the importance of health and safety with two industry workers not making it home last year. There was a strong consensus that this is simply not acceptable in this day and age and that solutions and precautions must be implemented to prevent future accidents.
Additionally there was a large focus on giving back to the community as well as mixed opinions around the current legislation and the time it takes to get projects approved and off the ground.
With roughly 560 in attendance at the Singleton Rugby Club, this was definitely a stand out event.
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