Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says the coal industry will remain in the state despite the latest of many job cuts being announced.
Queensland will push on with coal investment despite a bleak outlook for the finite resource.
BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) announced on Tuesday about 700 jobs would be axed from its Bowen Basin coal mines in central Queensland in response to tough market conditions and low prices.
The losses are the latest in a swathe of mass job cuts in the sector in Australia.
But Queensland Premier Campbell Newman insists the state is benefiting from its reliance on coal mines.
“It is a source of competitive advantage for this state,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
“And because of the thousands and thousands of men and women who have employment in that sector.
“We have one of the cleanest coals around, whether it be coking coal or thermal coal and coal is going to be needed for many, many decades to come.”
BMA Asset President Lucas Dow said job cuts were needed to ensure the long-term viability of the business.
“With our ongoing focus on improving the productivity and global competitiveness of our business, we continue to assess the most effective way of safely operating our assets both now and into the future,” he said in a statement.
IG market strategist Evan Lucas said BMA’s cuts wouldn’t be the last for the industry, which was struggling to cope with a low coal price fuelled by an oversupply and traditional coal users like China and India moving to alternatives like gas, oil, uranium and renewables.
“Over the next decade, there is no doubt that coal is going one way and that is certainly not to be the player that once upon a time it once was,” Mr Lucas told AAP.
BHP Billiton had already cut 163 coal mining jobs in NSW at its Mt Arthur coal mine in the Hunter Valley, also citing tough market conditions.
Those cuts followed the loss of 500 jobs at BHP’s iron ore business.
BMA’s announcement came on the same day the UN warned coal had no future in the world’s energy mix, and as world leaders gather ahead of a major climate summit in New York.
The Rockefeller family, which made its fortune in oil, has also announced plans to sell more than $A50 billion of fossil fuel investments so it can reinvest in the clean energy sector.
But employees in BMA’s Blackwater, Goonyella Riverside, Peak Downs, Saraji, Broadmeadow, Caval Ridge and Daunia mines will be more concerned about their own futures as the company holds talks with staff over coming weeks.
Mr Newman has urged the company to support workers in every way it can, while opposition mining spokeswoman Jo-Ann Miller is calling on the government to help staff find new work.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has blamed BMA’s parent company BHP for pushing down coal prices by causing the oversupply.
“BHP has profited enormously from Central Queensland resources over many years, but today they are showing their true colours as a ruthless multinational corporation,” CFMEU Mining and Energy general secretary Andrew Vickers said.
Mr Dow has vowed affected employers would be treated “fairly and with respect”, while the local communities would be updated.
BMA is the largest private employer in the Bowen Basin, with over 10,000 employees and contractors on its books.