Coal mining jobs increase despite continuing gloom

AFTER Australian coal giants took out more than 12,000 jobs, new figures show the number of workers in mining has somehow increased.

The surprising statistic is a diamond in an otherwise rough read of Australia's resources sector by the national Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics.

Coal mines are still battling to earn enough to justify digging it out of the ground.

According to BREE's latest report, mines must continue to fight for their survival, although the challenge is expected to ease from next year when coal prices are forecast to improve.

The coal giants are having to choose between operating at a loss, shutting down or cutting their budgets.

BREE found while jobs have increased despite the 12,000 losses, these were created as now-finished mines were still under construction.

New mines including Cockatoo Coal's Baralaba North mine may help bolster Queensland coal exports, but any gains could be wiped out by mines expected to shut between now and 2016.

BREE deputy executive director Wayne Calder said the continuing gloom did not change the importance of mining to Australia.

The resources industry, he said, "remained the principal source of Australia's economic growth in the March quarter 2014".

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane too praised the sector - particularly coal - for its strength in the face of tough conditions.

"The BREE report provides further evidence of the strength in the Australian resources industry, as well as the challenges it faces in a tighter global market," he said.

Mr Macfarlane said the dismantling of the former government's mining and carbon taxes would only help to encourage investment.