Resources boom injects $213 million in local economy

MINING companies have pumped $213 million directly into the local economy last financial year as the New England and North West’s resources boom continues to gather pace.

Figures from the NSW Minerals Council show mining companies spent $117 million with 505 local businesses and paid $82 million in wages to 692 full-time employees in 2013-14.

The total direct spend – predominantly from Whitehaven Coal, Idemitsu Australia Resources and Shenhua Watermark – was up 17.7 per cent on the previous financial year.

The number of full-time employees rose to 7.1 per cent and is likely to keep growing in 2014-15, with Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek coalmine entering production early next year.

The report, based on a survey of 22 mining companies, puts the industry’s total direct and indirect contribution to the local economy at $836 million and 2776 full-time jobs.

The growth comes off the back of coal production in the Gunnedah Basin more than doubling from 7.7 million tonnes in 2011-12 to 15.8 million tonnes in 2013-14.

NSW Minerals Council’s CEO Stephen Galilee said the New England and North West was the only region in the state to enjoy an increase in both employment and business spending.

He said that with the Maules Creek mine, as well as projects such as Shenhua Watermark and BHP Caroona possibly on the horizon, the potential for growth was “enormous”.

“You’re seeing a slow and steady build-up of economic activity relating to mining in the region, which is a good, solid base for long-term economic growth,” he said.

“In terms of the coal regions, it is bucking the general statewide trend where in the Illawarra and the Hunter, in particular, we’ve seen jobs and spending down.”

Gunnedah-based company Stripes Engineering, which has grown to more than 60 employees, is one firm reaping the benefits of the region’s increased mining activity.

Managing director Jamie Chaffey said contracts with Whitehaven Coal, which has extensive interests in the region, had given his business opportunities to continue growing.

“Being an engineering firm in the Gunnedah region, the biggest potential customer we can serve is the mining industry,” he said. “In our business, we normally employ one apprentice per year, but over the last three years we’ve employed two. Now, we’re looking at (putting on) four apprentices. Whitehaven, I feel personally, has contributed a lot of opportunities.”

LGAs surveyed included Moree, Narrabri, Gunnedah, Liverpool Plains, Gwydir, Tamworth, Inverell, Uralla, Walcha, Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Guyra and Armidale.