For decades mining towns in Australia have been at the mercy of the industry's boom or bust cycle.
In Queensland, the Bowen Basin is feeling the full force of a massive mining downturn, with many projects on hold or scrapped altogether.
In years gone by, the north Queensland city of Mackay prospered from the coal sector, but the last 12 months have been increasingly tough for the mining services industry.
Darryl Stark runs a family-owned engineering company and says the phones have gone quiet.
"I feel if things don't pick up in the near future there's going to be a lot of good companies in Mackay that have set up for the mining industry that are going to be closing down and that's very sad to say that," he said.
During the boom times, his workshop ran seven days a week to keep up with maintenance jobs for mining equipment, but in the past few months he has had to lay off eight workers.
"There was no work coming in at all, so no work coming in at all means we can't pay our guys," he said.
And the downturn has been rapid.
The Queensland Resources Council says about $50 billion worth of coal projects have been put on hold.
Chief executive Michael Roche says that is more than a dozen projects.
"There's no getting around the fact that is probably the most difficult conditions for the coal industry in the last 10 years," he said.
"We've seen coal prices plummet at the same time as cost have been skyrocketing, and so there are many mines who are in loss-making situations."
A recent survey of the mining services industry linked to the Bowen Basin painted a bleak picture.
Narelle Pearse from the Regional Economic Development Corporation says many businesses are feeling the effects.
"We had about 120 companies respond and 83 per cent of them were reporting a decline within the last nine months," she said.
Jobs lost in mining regions across Australia
Mastermyne Group, a leading mining services company, has reduced its workforce from about 1,300 to 900 since this time last year.
Chief executive Tony Caruso says the region has come from such unprecedented highs that this latest downturn is more noticeable.
"It certainly feels like a very quick and large fall from where we were," he said.
As the big mines scale back, about 7,000 jobs have been cut across Queensland.
Mr Roche says it is part of a national trend.
"We know that this is also being felt throughout the Hunter Valley and Western Australia," he said.
"We know that it's not all good news for the iron ore industry and the gold industry. There are pressures there and so cost-cutting is not uniquely a Queensland phenomenon.
"It's happening in the mine industry throughout Australia and it's also happening throughout parts of the oil and gas industry.
"We've seen coal prices plummet at the same time as costs have been skyrocketing and so there are many mines who are in loss-making situations."
Miners look for certainty on carbon pricing
Mr Roche says the carbon pricing scheme has played a part in the slowdown.
"It's death by a thousand cuts, the carbon pricing scheme. Each year it gets more severe," he said.
He says mines are looking for policy certainty from political parties.
"Tony Abbott's talking about doing away with the carbon pricing scheme all together, we'll wait to see of what he would replace it with but that seems like a positive move," he said.
"There is talk that Kevin Rudd might move from the carbon tax to floating carbon price. That would be an excellent move as well because at the moment the coal industry is subject to a carbon price of $24 per tonne of CO2.
"In Europe it's $6, so four times as expensive in Australia as in Europe for the cost of buying carbon."
Mr Roche says carbon pricing is not the only reason behind the downturn.
"I don't simply blame the carbon pricing scheme. It coincided with a plunge in coal prices and of course the industry was its own worst enemy in letting costs get out of control," he said.
"And of course governments have been reaching in for additional taxes and of course our own State Government is not immune from that because there was a very big increase in coal royalties in the September budget last year."
Business looks for hope in tougher times
Mr Caruso says many businesses started up as a result of the boom so they have known no other way.
"Quite a few businesses have never been through a downturn or have operated in an industry that wasn't booming," he said.
"You see quite a few of those businesses that are now struggling because they don't know how to run businesses in this environment as opposed to the boom."
The chairman of the Mackay Chamber of Commerce, Tim Miles, says it is not all doom and gloom.
"It's important to understand that Mackay is still a really strong business community. It's just we have come off those incredible highs," he said.
Mr Miles says businesses just need to have a look at their long terms plans, even if that means having difficult conversations with staff about cutbacks.
"They need to look at reducing labour costs and that actually means reducing wages, which is a difficult conversation to have but it really is a conversation that they need to have with their staff."
Three years ago, boilermaker Brett Hampson took a plunge by investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into European welding technology known as plasma transfer arc welding.
He now runs a 28-man workshop and says the technology has helped with cost-saving during the tougher times.
"One of the big flow-on effects is that we've been able to increase the machine availability in the mine sites through longer service lives," he said.
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