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Coal Trade

Written by Andy
Source: Carbon Brief

In 2016, Australia was the biggest net exporter of coal, with 32% of global exports (389 Mt out of 1,213 Mt total), and was the fourth-highest producer with 6.9% of global production (503 Mt out of 7,269 Mt total). 77% of production was exported (389 Mt out of 503 Mt total).[4]

Australian coal is either high-quality bituminous coal (black coal) or lower-quality lignite (brown coal).[9]

The Minerals Council of Australia reports:

In 2016-17 Australia produced 440 million tonnes of black coal – 250 million tonnes of thermal coal and 190 million tonnes of metallurgical coal.

This made Australia the fourth largest producer or black coal in the world. In addition, around 60 million tonnes of lignite was produced in Victoria for use in its electricity sector.

This production is possible because Australia has vast resources of coal. According to Geoscience Australia, Australia has over 70 billion tonnes of economically demonstrated resources of black coal and 76 billion tonnes of lignite.

At current production rates these resources will sustain production of black coal for 125 years and lignite for over 1,200 years.

Most of Australia’s coal production is sold overseas, mainly to countries in Asia. Australian coal is highly sought after around the world for its high energy content and low impurities which make it ideal for use in modern High Efficiency-Low Emission (HELE) power plants and steel mills.

In 2016-17 the coal industry provided around 47,000 direct jobs and a further 120,000 indirect jobs across Australia. 

According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, this made coal the largest employer in the Australian minerals industry. These are highly paid jobs with the average annual salary of coal industry employees exceeding $155,000.

The industry generated $5 billion in royalties and $254 million in payroll tax for state governments in 2016-17 – funding nurses, police, teachers and other essential public services and infrastructure.

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