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OpinionMining has integral role in our diverse economy

COEXISTENCE: The Hunter’s mining sector is a critical pillar in the region’s economy.For the past 200 years the Hunter has had the benefit of a diversified economy. This beating heart has been providing jobs and business opportunities to companies small and large, making the region home to a thriving community.

Generations of successful coexistence between mining, agriculture, viticulture, manufacturing and, more recently, tourism has provided jobs and opportunities to local families and the Hunter’s 4000 plus businesses.

But in recent times the success of this interdependence has begun to be taken for granted by some.

They have argued, that one industry – mining and resources – should be subjected to extreme regulation and that other economic sectors be given preferential treatment. They also argue, that it’s not possible for different industries to continue to work side-by-side in the Hunter despite almost 200 years of successful coexistence.

The fact is the mining sector and the Hunter are synonymous for good reason – it is a critical pillar of the local economy. BHP Billiton has a long association with the Hunter and is proud to be a key player in one of the most diverse and unique parts of .

Our history here goes back to the Newcastle Steelworks that opened in 1915. Today we operate Mt Arthur Coal Mine on the outskirts of Muswellbrook and employ more than a thousand local people in various roles, many of which are well paid and offerrewarding career opportunities.

In the last financial year the Hunter Valley exported 158 million tonnes of coal through Newcastle port. We also continued our long-standing supply of coal to the Bayswater Power Station that supplies electricity to the National Electricity Market.

The royalty revenue generated by NSW mining was $1.2 billion with coal accounting for approximately 91 per cent of that total. This money has been used by the State to fund health services and improve infrastructure and roads.

The majority of businesses in the Hunter community continue to support mining’s role in the local economy, but despite this support there is a real risk the loudest and most extreme voices could yet win this debate. Our local supply chain is as diverse as the Double Picc café in Muswellbrook and MRM Solutions exploration drilling in Singleton and they recognise the important role they play in the economic and social fabric of the region.

It was a great privilege to speak to the Hunter Business Chamber recently about the importance of this public debate. If the shrill voices of extreme regulation are not balanced by sensible facts then our entire interconnectedness will be put at risk.

We are an active member of the Upper Hunter Dialogue which brings together miners in the region with community, government, business and environmental groups.

It really is time that we all recognised that mining is absolutely critical to our everyday lives, the cars we drive, our homes, schools and hospitals and it underpins every other sector of the economy because without it you can’t harvest a crop or transport livestock.

We should all pause and remind ourselves that we are all in this together and if one sector is beaten down, forced out or regulated out of existence then every other sector will suffer as well.

James Palmer, BHP Billiton Asset President New South Wales Energy Coal.

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