Another big land release frees up coal

EVER more mining opportunities are opening up in Central Queensland's coal-rich Bowen Basin.

Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Henry Palaszczuk has announced the release of about 53,600 hectares at Taroborah, 20km west of Emerald, which has an estimated 157 million tonnes of coal.

Taroborah was a restricted area, but with the completion of technology trials and research in the area, it is being opened to exploration.

"The Taroborah land release will provide an opportunity for exploration companies to further appraise the thermal coal resources,'' Mr Palaszczuk said.

Applications for coal tenements could be made on the land from September 12 and already large and small firms had shown interest, including from international investors which were mostly Chinese.

Mr Palaszczuk said there was potential for two mines, one at Taroborah and one north of Retreat Creek in the same area.

The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries said it was difficult to estimate the amount of employment that would be created by the land release, but new mines could take on 50 to 250 people, possibly more.

The average lead-up time to begin a mine was about five years but the Government was doing everything it could to fast-track development and if the demand was there, the mine could be up and running much sooner than that.

The announcement is just another cog in the massive Central Queensland coal rush.

The Bowen Basin already contributes the majority of the State's coal exports through more than 30 mines and another 30 potential coal extraction are on the drawing board.

The news was cautiously welcomed in Emerald.

Chamber of Commerce president Craig Edmonston said: "The positive is that a development the size of a coal mine will contribute business to the town''.

However, problems for alternative employers attracting and retaining staff when competing with mining wages would be exacerbated.

"It makes it hard for small business,'' he said.

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