Coal communities can handle mining upturn: professor

Demand for coal may be on the rise.
Demand for coal may be on the rise. Lee Constable

MINING communities will be better placed to deal with the predicted return to higher coal prices, a CQ University professor said.

Regional economic development professor John Rolfe said while the market wouldn't see a return to the record high enjoyed by large resource companies, prices would steadily increase.

"Prices at the moment are trending downwards but the companies are reporting an upturn in demand," Prof Rolfe said.

"There's also recovery in the Chinese demand, with anecdotal reports the manufacturing volumes are starting to increase.

"The Chinese government has announced its new leadership and there's hope that the leadership will start to stimulate the economy."

Those combined factors were the driving forces of the coal market, Prof Rolfe said. But he warned uncertainty remained about the European and American markets.

"In the Bowen Basin there is an increase in volume… there should be some growth in jobs again."

He said some of the 5000 jobs cut across Queensland in recent months had been absorbed by the burgeoning gas sector.

But as prices improved and the market stabilised, Prof Rolfe said some positions would re-emerge in the coal industry.

He said mining communities such as Blackwater would benefit from the focus on housing availability and affordability in the future, as markets picked up.

"I think the communities are actually pretty resilient," Prof Rolfe said.

"There has been a lot learned and if we do get another quick upturn, I still think there will be the same rush to develop."

But while market analysts predicted a return to high prices, Queensland Resources Council chief Michael Roche warned there could be more job cuts.

"Ongoing reviews will identify opportunities for savings throughout a mining company's operations."

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