Research reveals that 79% of Aussies would support more mining – and 51% would support more coal mining – if it would help strengthen the Australian dollar and avoid a recession. The findings come when Australia’s coal mines is estimated to produce 1.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year as it prepares for net-zero emissions, but because of a risk of 2023 recession following fast-rising inflation and interest rates, and other economic factors.
The findings were derived from a survey of an independent panel of 1000 Australians, commissioned by money transfer comparison platform Send Money Australia, which sought to find out whether Australians would support mining to strengthen the economy.
What were the findings of the survey?
Aussie commodities, two-thirds of which are natural resources, saw healthy export volumes in 2022. Australia maintained its position as the largest exporter of metallurgical coal, and the second largest exporter of thermal coal. Coal makes up a chunk of the $422bn of resources and energy exported, and the Govt forecasts these exports to increase to $450bn in 2023.
Our exports are supporting the Australian dollar in international markets and there are some forecasts that our mining exports will soften future economic downturns in the same way that they helped soften the impact of the Global Financial Crisis on our economy. Despite the ongoing climate crisis, Aussies are desperate for economic relief and willing to continue with natural resource exports – including coal – to weather the current tough economic period.
51% of Australians support mining, including coal
The survey found that half of respondents (51%) would support an increase in mining activity, including the mining of coal. Across the States, Queenslanders are most supportive of coal mining, with 56% voting in support. This was followed by 55% of Victorians, 50% of NSW, 45% of South Australians, 43% of West Australians and 28% of ACT residents.
Older age groups, who may be less affected by the impacts of climate change, are more likely to encourage coal mining to avoid any economic downturn. In fact, the likelihood for Australians to support coal mining increased with age: 39% of under-35s surveyed , 53% of 35-54-year-olds surveyed, and 56% of over-55s surveyed support more coal exports.
The significance of women in global climate movements is reflected in the study, as young women all over the world have become figureheads and leaders of climate justice, with an estimated four out of five people displaced by the impacts of climate change being girls and women. The survey showed that men are more likely than women to support coal mining for economic benefit: 55% of men support more coal mining, compared with 47% of women.
28% of Australians support more mining, but not coal
As the world produces the infrastructure required for renewable energy – such as solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage – mining of certain metals and minerals will need to increase. The production of solar power panels requires mined aluminium, copper and other rare earth elements, while wind turbines require earth elements such as iron.
More than a quarter (28%) would support mining – but would not support coal mining – to strengthen the Australian dollar and avoid economic downturn. Younger Aussies are more likely to support other forms of mining, excluding coal, with more than one third (37%) of under-35s support in support, followed by 25% of 35-54-year-olds and 26% of over-55s.
21% of Australians are against all additional mining
In 2018, the Australian Government commissioned a study on the public perception of mining: it discovered that while mining is considered central to the economy, there was a lack of trust in the process. In recent years, the climate crisis and public perception of the issue have been drastically re-imaged as fear of environmental impacts and the rise of climate activism have shown to have a significant impact on Australian voting and buying power.
The mining industry, in particular, holds a powerful stereotype of negative environment impact, despite the current need for ongoing mining to produce renewable resources.
Send Money Australia found that one fifth (21%) of Australians would not support mining at all, regardless of whether it would assist the economy. South Australians are most likely to disagree with any mining as a means to support the Australian economy: 28% of SA respondents don’t support mining, followed by 21% of NSW respondents, an equal 20% of West Australians and Victorians, 19% of Queenslanders and 17% of ACT respondents.
The younger the age group, the more likely are Aussies to disapprove of any kind of mining: 24% of under-35s do not support mining at all, compared with 22% of 35-54-year-olds and 19% of over-55s. The full results, with age and State breakdowns, can be found here.