Growth Drivers

Australia is the world’s fourth largest coal producer and the world’s largest net exporter due to the relatively small level of domestic consumption. The majority of the resource is located in Queensland and new South Wales. Within Queensland this resource is sourced almost entirely from the Bowen Basin.


Queensland has a rich endowment of high-quality coal resources, with more than 34 billion tonnes (raw coal in-situ) having been identified by drilling operations.

Identified resources of coking coal amount to approximately 8.7 billion tonnes, of which about 4 billion tonnes are suitable for open-cut mining.

The Bowen Basin, which contains virtually all of the state’s hard coking coal, is the most important source of export coal in Queensland. The Callide, Clarence-Moreton, Tarong and Surat basins are important sources of thermal coal for domestic power generation.

The Surat Basin, with its large resources of potentially open-cut thermal coal, continues to attract interest both nationally and internationally and is set to emerge as a major source of high-volatile thermal coal for export. Large-scale open-cut mining is expected to commence in the Surat Basin in the region around Chinchilla and north-west to Wandoan and Taroom within the next five years, subject to establishment of new rail and port infrastructure.

In addition, exploration for export thermal coal now includes a focus on the previously identified large deposits of shallow coal that occur along the eastern flank of the Galilee Basin in western central Queensland. Five major thermal coal developments are proposed for the regions south-west and north-west of Alpha, including new railways and expanded port infrastructure at Abbot Point and Dudgeon Point on the Central Queensland coast.

Queensland’s world-class coal mines and infrastructure, including electrified rail links from the coalfields, allow efficient production and transport of coal to six coal-export terminals. At these terminals, ships of up to 230 000 deadweight tonnes load export coal for distribution to the world market.

Queensland’s saleable coal production in 2010–11 amounted to a total of 179.8 million tonnes (Mt).

Exports totalling 162.5 Mt, worth A$29.04 billion free-on-board, were made to 29 countries. An additional 22.8 Mt were supplied to domestic markets in Australia (22.5 Mt within Queensland).

These exports comprised 116.3 Mt of metallurgical coal (coking coal used in iron and steel making and coal used for pulverised coal injection [PCI] into the blast furnace) and 46.2 Mt of thermal coal used for electricity generation and in industrial processes. Coal exports from Queensland for 2010–11 were down significantly on 2009–10 export tonnages, largely due to flooding in Central Queensland during early 2011, with markets in Asia accounting for over 80 per cent of sales.

Although coal exports to Japan decreased substantially during the year under review compared with coal sales to that country in 2009–10, Japan remained the main export destination for Queensland coal in 2010–11, accounting for 49.28 Mt of export sales — down from 57.32 Mt in 2009–10. India ranked as the second largest buyer (27.51 Mt) with Korea third (22.18 Mt).  China in fourth position, received 21.78 Mt of coal from Queensland suppliers in 2010–11, substantially below 2009–10 coal sales to that country of 30.92 Mt.

To help meet increasing demand from international buyers, the Queensland Government is working with the coal industry and private enterprise to facilitate mine expansions, the development new coal mining projects and provision of adequate coal export infrastructure. QR National is now a publicly listed company and the Abbot Point coal terminal has been leased to the private sector.

Although severely impacted by damaging floods in early 2011, the Queensland coal industry and supporting infrastructure have now recovered and continue to expand to meet growing world demand, particularly from Asia.

Download the 2012 mining facts PDF

To satisfy the global demand for coal, Australian coal exports are expected to grow over the next five years at rates in excess of the previous five years (depicted left*).
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