ALMOST 16,000 workers have been lost from the mining industry as companies rush to slash costs amid a perfect storm of high costs and tumbling prices.
The fixation on the bottom line is certain to continue, with the federal resource boffins - the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics - expecting coal and gas prices to creep along a plateau for the coming five years.
In its latest quarterly report on the industry released on Wednesday, BREE warns the latest price for coking coal - used in making steel - was $154 per tonne, the lowest level since 2009's floor of $136 when the Global Financial Crisis bit into demand.
Queensland's massive Bowen Basin exports primarily coking coal, along with some thermal coal, which is used to produce electricity.
The volatile swings in price that marked the boom-bust cycles since 2008 appear to have calmed, with the value of coking coal expected to slowly climb to the $173 mark by 2018.
In 2011, as demand peaked, this coal was selling for $318 a tonne.
For thermal coal, prices sit at $84 a tonne, but will slowly rise to reach $96 a tonne in 2018.
Liquefied natural gas prices will fall as it competes with cheap oil, but the huge amount being exported, particularly from massive gas projects off Gladstone, will keep increasing revenue for the industry.
Returning to coal, the report finds there is little hope for new investment for major projects unless more and deeper cuts can be made.
Only the enormous mines planned for the Galilee Basin in western Queensland - worth billions and projected to create thousands of jobs - are likely to begin construction, as low market prices bruise the prospects of smaller mines.
Overall, Australian export earnings from minerals and energy are expected to increase by 7% a year on average to 2017-18.