Queensland’s richest man, Clive Palmer.
Queensland’s richest man, Clive Palmer.

Big miners hunt for black gold

THE hunt for coal north of the Sunshine Coast could herald a boom time for the region.

At least three companies – one owned by Queensland’s richest man, Clive Palmer – are prospecting for the black mineral between Gympie and Bundaberg.

Nearest to us is exploration being done by Sydney-based Tiaro Coal, a group backed by China’s largest private coal company, Qinfa Coal.

Tiaro’s most promising sites are 130km north-west of Noosa Heads, near Munna Creek.

Of the 2200 square kilometres it has control over, about 90 sq km could deliver coal for export.

The building of a mine so close is not guaranteed but Tiaro director Tan Sri Ibrahim Menudin wrote in the firm’s annual report that it would push the State Government to create a “Wide Bay Minerals Province”.

This key area would, he said, “encourage the resources industry to identify new mineral opportunities to enhance regional economic activity”.

A spokesman from the Department of Mines and Energy denied any knowledge of such a plan.

TO the north is an area being explored by Mr Palmer’s Waratah Coal.

It sits alongside the possible mine site of Northern Energy, which is ready to build a mine.

Northern Energy CEO Keith Barker said that pending state approval, his firm would export coal through Gladstone by late 2012.

Mr Barker backed mining in the Wide Bay area, which he described as a “low growth part of the state”.

“Clearly, exploration requires investment and clearly there’s an expectation that there could be mines,” he said.

Mr Barker said there was quality coal north of the Sunshine Coast, but the size of the deposits meant mines would always be smaller than in central Queensland.

University of the Sunshine Coast Pro Vice-Chancellor Mike Hefferan said although exploration did not equal a mine, it was not “just for a walk in the bush”.

“If there was a mine – and that’s a big if – it would need highly skilled and highly prized workers,” Prof Hefferan said.

“They won’t live at the mine site, they will want to live in a more desirable place.

“It creates a need to supply the mines, not just equipment but catering, food and security.”

Prof Hefferan, who specialises in regional engagement, said mine applications faced stringent environmental challenges from the State Government.

A spokesman from the Department of Mines and Energy said there would be “plenty of opportunity” for public consultation before a project went ahead.

Our new mining industry?

  • Prospectors are hunting for coal between Gympie and Bundaberg.
  • The closest exploration is 150km NW of Noosa Heads, by Tiaro Coal.
  • If approved, mine workers would likely commute from the Coast.
  • A mine near Hervey Bay is slated to begin operation, if approved, by late 2012.


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