In the Hunter Valley, an extension of the Bengalla mine is almost complete, while Wambo is applying to extract a further three longwall panels at its Warkworth site. But Acting CEO of the Minerals Council, Sue Ern Tan, said there is still a long road ahead. “Obviously we have a very rigorous assessment process here in New South Wales and the projects have to go through that process for being approved and then come online.”

The Minerals Council is concerned thousands of Hunter Valley mining jobs could still be at risk from the carbon tax, despite increased coal production. The Federal Government rejects claims that there will be mass job losses under the carbon reduction measures. But Ern Tan said mines are still anxious about the future. “18 coal mines will face premature closure under the tax and those mines employ 3,000 people in New South Wales and 1,100 in Queensland. Those are the ones that are at risk in the first three years of the tax. In Australia, we actually produce six per cent of the world’s coal and yet we make such an important contribution locally,” said Ern Tan.