Coal downturn causes unemployment in geosciences

THE downturn in the coal industry has led to unemployment among Queensland's geoscience industry rising to 12% in the past six months, an industry survey revealed on Monday.

Across the nation, unemployment among geoscientists doubled between June and December last year, an Australian Institute of Geoscientists showed.

The unemployment rate of those surveyed rose from 2.9% in the same period in 2011 to 6.1% in the second half of 2012.

Under-employment, or those geoscientists unable to get as much work as they wanted, also rose from 5.2% to 7.8% in the past year.

Queensland had the highest combined unemployment and under-employment levels, largely due to the downturn in the coal sector.

Some 83% of survey respondents engaged in the energy resource exploration and production (coal, coal seam gas and petroleum) work in Queensland.

In New South Wales, unemployment of 4.2% and under-employment of 13% contrasted with the corresponding figures for Queensland of 12% and 4.6% respectively.

While little changed in the smaller states, Western Australia reported the best employment conditions for the sector, with 5.2% unemployment and 4.4% under-employment for the past six months.

AIG president Kaylene Camuti said the survey results supported anecdotal evidence that mineral exploration was declining.

"Some 67% of survey respondents work in the metalliferous mineral exploration sector," she said.

"A further 13% of respondents work in metalliferous mining while 7.5% work in energy resource (coal, natural gas and petroleum) exploration and production," Ms Camuti said.

"Almost 65% of unemployed geoscientists lost their positions during (fourth quarter) 2012 - a direct reflection of the mining sector downturn."

About 40% of survey respondents were from WA, with 20% from Queensland, 20% overseas and the remainder in other Australian state or territories.