Australia is the world's largest exporter of black coal. In 2005, 238 million tonnes of coal were exported to northern Asia, India, Europe and South America from coal fields that are principally located in New South Wales and Queensland. The Australian black coal mining industry is a significant contributor to the economic wealth of the country. It is Australia's single most valuable export commodity, earning some $25 300 million in export income. In recent years, as a result of rapid economic development in northern Asia and persistently high oil prices, the industry has experienced sustained prosperity, with strong demand for both metallurgical coal used in steel making and thermal coal used to produce electricity. However, the black coal industry tends to be strongly cyclical and, historically, it has experienced sharp periods of contraction and expansion. Understanding the nuances of this product market is critical in understanding the characteristics of the labour market and the evolution of employment relations.
Evolving employment relations: industry studies from Australia p. 37-51