CQ University researchers Galina Williams and Jeremy De Valck. Pictures: CQ University
CQ University researchers Galina Williams and Jeremy De Valck. Pictures: CQ University

CQUni study finds coal mining ‘increasingly questionable’

CQ University researchers have found the coal mining industry’s lucrative pay packets will be overshadowed by negative long-term costs to regional communities.

Jeremy De Valck, Galina Williams and Swee Kuiki used a 31-year scenario to assess the benefits of the Bowen Basin’s 51 mines compared to if the area was used instead for livestock grazing or nature conversation.

“When only looking at the benefits of coal mining, this option generated 10 to 14 times more economic benefits than grazing and 800 to 3000 times more than nature conservation,” the article published in the Resources Policy journal stated.

“However, it also generated over 300 times more negative externalities than grazing.”

These included air, water and land pollution, increased house prices, accommodation shortages, income disparity and rent stress.

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“Over the 2016-17 period, we estimated that the (net present value) of coal mining could be between -$538 to -$690 billion, a very different value than if externalities were not considered ($50 to $64 billion).” vvvvvvvvvvv

“ … Coal mining may indeed generate colossal profits to some private companies and provide jobs and royalties for a couple of decades.

“However, the externalities related to the social and environmental impacts of coal mining could continue to be felt long after these mines are closed, creating the risk for local communities to be left economically deprived in the entire area.

“If nothing is done to limit coal mining expansion in the Bowen Basin, much land could become unsuitable for other uses, rivers and water sources could become irreversibly contaminated and local communities might suffer from numerous pollution-related diseases in the years to come.”

In comparison, grazing was found to have a positive $2.84 to $2.85 billion net present value and nature conservation a $16.35 to $79.29 million NPV.

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The authors’ said the coal mining industry would have to reduce negative externalities by 91.5 per cent to break even with the economic benefits it provided.

“The Australian and Queensland Government should consider limiting coal expansion and organising a progressive transition towards more sustainable economic development options,” they stated.

“Instead, they have so far disregarded scientific advice and supported further large-scale coal mining development projects.”

The full article, Does coal mining benefit local communities in the long run? A sustainability perspective on regional Queensland, Australia, can be found online.

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