Adani has made many claims about the number of jobs its mine will generate. They have often said that the mine will create ten thousand jobs. Last year at a mining industry forum in Mackay it was claimed that 16,000 direct and indirect jobs would be created. Former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, spoke about “tens of thousands of jobs” flowing from the project while visiting Adani’s operations in India.
When asked to provide evidence under oath in court, Adani’s economic expert said that the project would create 1,464 direct and indirect jobs. That’s a big number but it's a long way short of the ten thousand touted in public by the company.
The biggest cloud hanging over jobs in the mining industry isn’t whether or not politicians support a single mining project. The major driver of declining employment in coal worldwide has been the desire of mining companies to maximise profits through automation. Every nation that produces coal has witnessed mechanisation drive employment lower, even when production increased.
Adani is no exception. Back in 2015 Adani’s Australian CEO promised that all their trucks would be capable of being driverless and that the project would be autonomous from mine to port. When he said that, he was signalling to investors that they would enjoy a better return on their money by backing Adani rather than other projects. Adani has changed its tune recently and is selling a jobs bonanza to workers in order to pressure governments into rushing assessment of the project.
Central Queensland depends on coal mining but mining’s future is uncertain. Automation is a relentless process that helps mining companies compete for market share by reducing labour costs. That means fewer jobs for mine workers.
Technological innovation has also driven a rapid decline in the cost of solar and wind generated electricity which competes with thermal coal. It’s now impossible to build a coal fired power station without government economic subsidies.
In Central Queensland we don’t need to open the Galilee Basin to sell coal into an oversupplied and shrinking world market. We do need a plan to ensure that our communities remain vibrant and economically sustainable for decades to come. If we don’t have a plan for a transition from coal then we will be dependent on the whims of the foreign owners of mining companies. They don’t care one bit whether we have jobs in the future.
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