Australian coal industry remains dour as it becomes world's most costly producer

The Australian Coal Association remains downbeat on the sector's prospects, with sliding prices and surging operating costs leaving Australia unable to compete with international rivals.

World News Australia reports that Nikki Williams, CEO of the Australian Coal Association, says that the Australia coal sector is at "a terrible junction where not only has the international market come off in terms of prices, but our costs and productivity have gone to a terrible place."

Ms. Williams points that that in the space of five years Australia have moved from being the world's cheapest coal producer to the most expensive, at $176 a tonne compared to the $106 in the rest of the world.

The country's key coal producing regions have witnessed a slew of painful job cuts in the past six months. The industry has shed over 8,000 jobs in total, with Queensland alone seeing 5,500 retrenchments.

The woes of the Australian coal industry have created major opportunities for international rivals, particularly the US, which has picked up the slack of millions of tonnes of coal demand coming from Asia.

Others in the Aussie coal sector remain sanguine, however, due to the prospect of rising demand from India and the increasing prominence of coal in the energy portfolios of emerging economies.