Coal Miners Face Job Layoffs Amidst Global Shift Towards Renewable Energy

Coal mine jobs

In the face of scheduled mine closures and a growing preference for cheaper wind and solar power, coal miners worldwide are confronting the grim possibility of job layoffs.

Whether or not their home countries have implemented coal phase-out policies, a staggering average of 100 workers per day could face unemployment by the year 2035, according to a new report released by Global Energy Monitor.

The market size, measured by revenue, of the Global Coal Mining industry is $2 trillion in 2023. What is the growth rate of the Global Coal Mining industry in 2023? The market size of the Global Coal Mining industry is expected to decline 4.4 percent in 2023, a new report in IBIS World said.

The report, utilizing data from the Global Coal Mine Tracker, offers an unprecedented glimpse into employment across 4,300 active and proposed coal mines and projects globally. These mines collectively contribute to more than 90 percent of the world’s coal production. The Tracker estimates potential job losses based on an operation’s reported life of mine, taking into account existing leases, permits, available reserves, and economic considerations.

The data reveals that the coal industry is projected to shed nearly half a million jobs within the mining sector by 2035, averaging 100 workers per day. This alarming trend underscores the urgency of implementing measures to prevent widespread social and economic distress.

Coal mining jobs play a significant role in remote coal regions, acting as anchors for economic activity and supporting ancillary workforces, as well as employment within local consumer and information economies.

The majority of these at-risk jobs are located in Asia, with China and India expected to bear the brunt of coal mine closures. China, being the world’s largest coal producer, employs over 1.5 million coal miners who contribute to 85 percent of the nation’s coal production, half of the global output.

In India, the second-largest coal producer, the workforce is approximately half the size of China’s Shanxi province, officially employing around 337,400 miners. However, some studies suggest that for every direct employee, there are four “informal” employees in the local mining sector.

State-owned Coal India faces the potential of laying off 73,800 direct workers by 2050, highlighting the necessity for government involvement in planning smooth transitions for coal workers.

The report also emphasizes the coal industry’s responsibility to plan for its unpredictable future. Global Energy Monitor found that many mines expected to close in the coming decades lack adequate planning to extend their operations or manage a transition into a post-coal economy.

In response to the findings, Dorothy Mei, Project Manager for the Global Coal Mine Tracker, stressed the inevitability of coal mine closures but emphasized the need for viable transition planning to mitigate economic hardship and social strife among workers. Mei cited Spain as a model for effective decarbonization impact assessment and urged governments to draw inspiration from such successful planning for their own just energy transition strategies.

Ryan Driskell Tate, Coal Program Director, urged prioritizing workers in the transition agenda and emphasized the need for proactive measures to address the unique concerns of coal miners and their communities, especially with rapidly evolving technologies and markets aligned for an energy transition.

Tiffany Means, a researcher, called for government involvement and burden-sharing to ensure a managed transition for workers and communities as the world moves towards a cleaner, renewable energy-based economy.