Western Australian Economic Status
Coal mining in Western Australia has a significant influence on the Western Australian economic status. Australia has been recognized as one of the largest coal exporters in the world; it exports black and brown coal. It also uses coal locally for generating electricity that powers homes and industries. Firstly, this paper investigates the forms of coal that are available in Australia. The amount of coal mines produce is also covered in metric tons. Secondly, it examines the management of this resource in Western Australia. Discussing the management, this paper has focused on the various safety mechanisms adopted by Australia in mines and quarries. Thirdly, this paper also presents the problem facing coal mining in this region. Finally, this study reveals the recommendations for handling the environmental degradation caused by coal mining in Western Australia.
Western Australia has a long history of coal mining and preparation. It has served as the source of growth for many states in the region and globally. Australia is a significant exporter of coal, which uses this energy resource for different purposes locally. The primary use of coal in Western Australia includes generating electricity from power stations. The local community in Western Australia also depends on the coal since it helps to light homes. At the power plants, it is usually pulverized and burnt to heat the boilers that produce steam energy. The method commonly used to mine coal in Western Australia is board and pillar method (Filho & Voudouris 2013). According to Filho and Voudouris (2013), Australian coal was initially discovered in New South Wales (NWS) in 1791. From that point forward, production of the coal took place in all the other states with an exception of the Northern parts of Australia. Black coal mining is concentrated in the Bowen Basin in Queensland and the Sydney Basin in New South Wales (Filho & Voudouris 2013, p. 233). About 96% of the black coal in Australia is produced in Queensland while about 98% of the brown coal is produced at Loy Yang power station (Lucarelli 2011). The designed table at the end of the article shows how production of coal was distributed in Australia. It is also worth mentioning that regardless of the gradual production of coal, Australians risk experiencing some social, technological and environmental challenges (Taylor 2014).
In 1960 – 1986, the black coal industry in Western Australia experienced uninterrupted rapid development. This significant growth was due to enhancements in the mining technology and enlargement of the Japanese coal market (Filho & Voudouris 2013, p. 236). In the early 1960’s, Australia depended entirely on coking coal, but later this reliance shifted from coking coal to steaming coal. In 1973, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) hiked the oil price in Australia. This action resulted in the increase in demand for coal in the country to power the industrial activities. Filho and Voudrous (2013) point out that it is during that period that many coal-powered plants were established in most states in Western Australia.
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Despite this issue, there has been some critical news on the media by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that coal mining at Collie faces uncertain future (Taylor 2014). According to the report, there is a 23-year-old miner from the Collie mines who told that his shift was cancelled in a period of four months. This employee feared to lose his job due to some inconsistency of the mining industry. According to the industry, the cause of uncertainty is due to the overpriced cost of mining and high cost of the mineral production. The instability of this sector has even disabled the company to run effectively because the workers are complaining from time to time over delayed salaries (Taylor 2014). The ABC also sought the opinion from a local MP about the collapse of the Company. The MP acknowledged that the governmental aid was necessary for ensuring the company resumes its actual operations (Taylor 2014).
Similar news of the insolvency of these power stations has been showcased by the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (West 2014). According to West (2014), the IEEFA report estimated that the Griffin Coal mine in Western Australia is at risk of collapsing due to lack of sufficient funds to operate. This aspect shows that there is minimal governmental funding for the coal mining sector (West 2014)
These elements indicate how the issue of mining in Western Australia influences the future prosperity of Australians. Many advocates for coal mining have argued that this energy resource is essential for electricity generation in Western Australia. However, it is also critical to identify some of the cost and environmental impacts that coal activities have in the region. This article has tackled the management system of coal in Western Australia, suggesting how to handle the resource. It has also focused on the challenges that Western Australia faces in its day-to-day activities of coal production.
For a successful research on this topic, a qualitative approach to information collection should be adopted. An interview can be conducted with the employees from the mines in Western Australia to address the issue of unconducive working environment. Direct observation can be used to obtain information about the methods of coal mining in Western Australia to consider some of the research questions as methods of extraction used. A naturalistic enquiry can also be accomplished in order to obtain information from the management based on the qualitative research method. The method is relevant in this study as it makes it possible to establish a relationship between the contemporary issues of coal mining and the regulations that govern its management in the region. A notable advantage of the proposed methods used for data collection is that the information has not been constrained by set categories for analysis (Patton 2002, p. 2). Therefore, the following issues should be explained categorically when conducting this research. Firstly, regulation standards should be accompanied with some suggestions to the management. Secondly, the research should address the problems facing the sector since the discovery of coal in the region.
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Managing Coal Mining in Western Australia
In order to understand the management of coal mining in Australia, it is important to determine the kind of regulation systems governing the mines. Western Australian coal mining shifted the management from prescriptive to safety-based regulation systems. From an analytical perspective, the Australian coal mining has been successful as a result of regulatory reforms. The success of the regulatory system in Australia is based on the following modelling explanation. Firstly, it was predetermined by the availability of significant model mongers and missionaries who facilitated the comprehension of the model. Secondly, the success of the model explanation was a result of some derivative force from the general Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulation. According to Yang, the model mongers are the senior government inspectors, the industries’ managers, and the mine workers. These are the individuals who accelerated the shift from prescriptive to safety-based regulatory system. They are perceived to be endowed with cognitive capacities based on the benefits they get from the mines. They also engage in inclusive dialogues with various public in order to achieve an acceptable outcome.
The UK established the Roben’s model of regulation that advocated for employers to provide a safety and risk management to the workers. Therefore, since Australia had some significant relationship with the UK, it also used the same model in the management of health and safety issues. Yang (2012) has also pointed out that in New South Wales and Queensland OHS regulations of these states adopted the common responsibility of care and performance standards. However, the state transformed when Queensland came up with Coal Mining Safety and Health Act (CMSHA) in 1999. This Act was also similar to Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act. These statutes were established to govern the coal mining and the metalliferous quarries. In 2000, the NSW also established a similar statute that governed the mines as well as other workplaces. This enactment is Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 (Yang 2012, p. 93). However, in 2004, they developed another regualtion called Mine Health and Safety Act that also covered the quarries and mines.
This legislation created some new varieties of ideals, such as the general duty and risk management, as well as system-based principles. According to Yang (2012), the primary advantage of covering the general duties is its universal nature. This aspect meant that its comprehensiveness allowed the employees to continue with their safety issues at the mines as long as it was acceptable.
If critically analyzed, coal mining in Western Australia has a wide range of benefits that is difficult to ignore. However, this aspect has only helped in raising Australia economically, but making the environmental sector languish (Moffat & Lacey 2014). There have been many activists who resented the issue of coal mining due to the climate change experienced by burning carbon. Therefore, the following steps can be used to manage this resource.
The coal mining industries should plan to establish social and physical infrastructure (Franks 2012). This strategy would be useful to ensure that the transportation of coal for export is done efficiently. Australia has proved to be among the leading coal exporting nations, which produces 30% of the global coal. In 2010, Australia exported approximately 300 million tons out of 30% of the global coal. Therefore, ensuring that physical infrastructure, such as roads, is well maintained will keep it on top of its competitors in coal trade, for instance, China. This country should also maximize its investments in large train locomotives. This approach will make sure that there is an improved efficiency of coal export (Moult 2012). According Moult (2012), a coal company that invests in train locomotives saves significantly in terms of cost. Lucarelli (2011) has also acknowledged the need to expand the existing rail lines in order to construct new ones due to the need to reach a wider geographical scope of the customers.
Improvement of working conditions for employees and retention of experienced workers in mining are also essential (Franks 2012). A number of employees from the coal quarries have complained over delayed salaries and unnecessary retrenchments. This aspect has influenced poor performance of the coal mining sector (Taylor 2014). Therefore, the leading coal producing companies in Western Australia should ensure the workers are provided with a conducive working environment. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, there have been complaints from employees over the lack of proper communication on shifts (Taylor 2014). This aspect makes the employees feel demoralized and affects their performance. Hence, the coal producing companies are obliged to ensure that the salaries of workers are reimbursed in time to prevent inconveniences.
The management of these firms should also ensure that the coal production complies with the international standards (Franks 2012). One of the requirements of the international coal mining standards is that the industries should ensure the safety of workers on site. Conducting coal mining activities on deep underground surfaces involves higher risk than activities on shallow surfaces. It means that severe healthy procedures and employee education should be taken into consideration as required by the international standards.
The mining industry can also succeed if the project risks and uncertainties were reduced for the investors, government and the workers. This aspect will attract the foreign investors who will finance the industry, ensuring that it is well maintained. It will also assure the sector of the long-term success and effectiveness.
Problem Facing Western Australian Coal Mining Sector
According to a survey done by Centennial Coal Company Limited, it was discovered that the coal industry is experiencing a problematic transition; hence, to be globally modest, it has to re-establish the cost base of the industry (Moult 2012). The issue weakening Australian dollar against the US dollar makes it appear as it is being annihilated from the trade. A similar survey was done in these companies to prove this fact. Smith (2014) has pointed out that comparing Indonesian coal for export to that from Australia, it is indeed clear that Australian production has deteriorated. This factor has cost miners their jobs, making them resort to other means for survival (Smith 2014).
Lack of necessary technological facilities that can process coal in an environmentally friendly manner is another challenge facing coal production in Australia (Davis & Occelli 2009). It usually leads to global climate change. Despite being a significant product for the economic progress of Australia, it has also negatively affected the environment through the release of carbon dioxide during combustion. Therefore, a technology that releases clean coal should be addressed with an immediate effect. However, Australian industries are not equipped with technologies that can handle the issue of this catastrophic gas emission to the atmosphere. As much as coal is needed globally for its economic benefits, the issue of CO2 remains a tricky situation for Australia and the whole globe at large. To prevent further contamination, there is a proposed strategy that can assist Australia in combating this challenge. A coal-to-liquid (CTL) process that is established on Fischer-Tropsch (FT) platform is a technology developed to tackle this technological challenge (Davis & Occelli 2009).
Lack of sufficient skilled labor force to work in the mines is among other problems the coal industries face (Lucarelli 2011). The number of the competent employees working at the mines is very minimal, which makes productivity of coal not ultimate. Therefore, most industries lag behind in terms of productivity. The cost of hiring the competent workers is also relatively high, which makes the cost of coal production high.
There is also the limited infrastructure to transport these energy resources to various destinations. Lucarelli (2011) has pointed out that in 1987 to 2004 the railway lines of Queensland and New South Wales were expanded, which facilitated the transportation of coking and steam coal. However, after 2004, the transport sector was overwhelmed by the rapid growth of coal processing industries. The governments of these cities were unable to control the growth of infrastructure. Consequently, there were enormous queues at the ports of such cities as Newcastle. The unavailability of adequate infrastructure made the prices of coal decrease.
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There is also a stiff competition from other coal-producing nations, including Indonesia, China and Japan. According to statistics, black coal experienced a 16% decline in export in 1987 to 1996 (Lucarelli 2011). This competition and fluctuations in the coal market trends usually pose some uncertainty to investors who are ready and capable to invest in this industry. In response to these extortions to the black coal mining in Australia, the Productivity Commission was provided with the responsibility to investigate the competitiveness of Australian black coal. The commission was also responsible for coming up with recommendations in order to improve the international standards of the Australian black coal.
Another issue is the rock fall fatalities encountered in the mining fields. According to the survey, the fall rates in Western Australian mines accounted for 50% of all fatalities (Villaescusa, Windsor & International Symposium on Ground Support 1999). The deficiency in geotechnical practice was identified as the cornerstone for the source of this problem. Therefore, this issue needed to be addressed on sites, practicing open-pit mining with the contempt it deserves. This aspect made individuals lose their lives in the mines while practicing the open-pit mining technique to obtain the coal.
Coal mining is the primary commercial activity that has boosted the economy of Western Australia. However, the sector is undergoing a number of challenges despite being significant in the Australian economy. Some of the issues can be tackled at the industry level while others require governmental intervention. The Australian Government is obliged to ensure that the sector is well-supported to achieve some of the core functions. They can only achieve this by supporting the industry financially, being aware of its challenges. Establishing fair policies to insure the workers at the quarries and mines is also critical for their safety at the sites. These systems will be vital in guaranteeing employees health covers because of the risk they take.
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