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The importance of mining and minerals to NSW

16 February, 2006

Mining is one of the most significant industries in New South Wales (NSW). It generated A$4.4 billion in 2003-04 in export revenue.

The Strengths:

1. Total value of mineral production in NSW was around $6.7 billion in 2003-04, and was projected to rise to over $8 billion in 2004-05.
2. Coal exports were A$2.9 billion in 2003-04.
3. Coal exports projected to grow from 76 to 83 million tonnes by 2005.
4. Silver, lead and zinc has a combined annual output of almost A$700 million.
5. The value of gold produced in NSW in 2000-01 was over A$300 million.
6. NSW produced copper worth A$440 million in 2000-01.
7. Australia currently accounts for 95% of the world's natural opal production.
8. NSW accounts for over half of the national output of opals

Major companies:

Rio Tinto

Key areas:

Far West
Central West

NSW is a leading low-cost world scale producer of a range of metals and minerals including coal, gold, copper, silver, lead, zinc and gemstones. It is a major exporter of coal, zinc, gold, copper, steel and aluminium.

Government, industry and regional communities work closely to achieve world's best practice in extraction, processing, environmental management and mine site rehabilitation.

The industry, including value-added minerals processing, directly employs about 30,000 people in NSW.


Coal dominates the NSW industry, accounting for about 75 per cent of the State's mining income and more than 15 per cent of its export income in 2003-04. Four major coalfields, supporting over 50 operations, produce more than 100 million tonnes of black coal worth over A$5 billion annually.

Coal generates almost 92 per cent of the State's electricity and contributes over half of its commodity exports.

NSW has 33 new or expanding coal projects underway or pending. Recoverable coal reserves are estimated to be more than 10,000 million tonnes.

Japan, South Korea and Taiwan depend on NSW coal. They comprise the major markets for the State's thermal and coking coal.

In 2003-04 the State exported:

39.8 million tonnes to Japan
3.7 million tonnes to South Korea
8.1 million tonnes to Taiwan
1.2 million tonnes to China

NSW provides one-third of Japan's thermal coal imports and about 20 per cent of South Korea's.

Smaller amounts of coal are exported to China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, India, Israel, South America and Europe.

Silver, lead and zinc

With a combined annual output of almost A$700 million, silver, lead and zinc make a strong contribution to the NSW economy. Lead and zinc price movements appear to have improved recently, and exploration has extended the reserves in the State's established mines. High levels of exploration activity hold promise for the discovery of new ore bodies in the Lachlan Fold belt and the Broken Hill region.


During the Australian gold rushes of the 1850s and 1860s, Australia became the world's largest gold producer, and New South Wales made a good contribution to the export total.

In the following 100 years, gold production declined in NSW to a few hundred kilograms annually, although strong growth in Western Australia ensured that Australia has ranked as the world's third largest producer in recent years.

Recent gold discoveries in the central west of NSW, followed by large scale mine development, has seen a resurgence of NSW gold production so that it now surpasses the peak levels of the gold rush days. The value of the gold produced in NSW in 2000-01 was over A$300 million, and developments now under way should ensure that this figure is significantly exceeded in the next decade.


NSW is Australia's second largest copper producer, and produced copper worth A$440 million in 2000-01. In some large NSW mines and mine projects, copper and gold are found together, so that the forecast growth in gold production is likely to be accompanied by similar growth in copper.

The Cadia and Ridgeway mines near Orange continue to grow and the Cowal gold project is now under construction. NSW remains an attractive exploration zone for copper, particularly in the Lachlan fold belt in the State's central west region.


Australia is the world's major producer of precious opal, accounting for 95 per cent of natural opal production worldwide. NSW provides over half of that output.

The estimated value of opal production in NSW in 1998-99 was approximately A$44 million. The main market for the precious gemstone is Japan.

Most opal mining occurs in the Lightning Ridge district in the State's north west. This area is the world's principal source of the highly prized black opal. Minor production also occurs in the White Cliffs district in the State's far west. 

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