EXPLAINED: Future of nine major new mines
WITH the gates to the Galilee Basin now flung open, it looks more likely than ever one of the world's largest untapped thermal coal fields will become the economic powerhouse of regional Queensland.
The long-fought approval of the controversial Adani Carmichael project was considered the lynch-pin on which the opportunities in the Galilee depended.
Now, there is movement.
Research commissioned by The Greater Whitsunday Council of Mayors shows opening the Galilee Basin would generate almost $4 billion and support more than 13,000 jobs across the Isaac, Mackay and Whitsunday regions.
Isaac Mayor Anne Baker, an advocate for sustainable mining, said responsible management of the Galilee's "vast untapped" coal and gas resources would grow the region.
If development in the basin only reached one-quarter of its capacity, estimates from the Queensland Resources Council show this would produce about $290 million in royalties each year.
This would cover salary costs of 4000 police constables, teachers or nurses.
QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the Adani project had acted as a "punching bag" for the mines which would follow.
"They've been subjected to far more criticism and scrutiny than they deserve," he said. "We are all for a rigorous process but it was politicised."
"Adani has paved the way for five for six new mines and established the baseline for environmental approvals, the black throated finch and in terms of water. So all that nitty-gritty stuff, the process going forward will be a little bit clearer and a bit more predicate."
There there are seven mine project proposals for development in the Galilee. Thirteen coal mining lease applications exist. Of those, three approved licences were granted to Adani and five conditional licences were granted to MacMines for mega-mine Chinastone.
1. MacMines's China Stone - Galilee Basin
Once expected to create more than 3000 operational jobs and just as many for construction, the future of MacMine's China Stone thermal coal mine is unclear.
The MacMines project, 300km west of Mackay, includes open-cut and underground mines with a projected production rate of 38 million tonnes per annum.
In March, the company chose to not progress its five conditionally granted mining leases. MacMines told the Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy at the time it was committed to converting the development of the coal deposit but at a later date.
A resource industry researcher told the Daily Mercury he believed Chinastone could be pulling out of its mining leases due to "economics".
Other analysts have suggested the project may no longer be financially viable.
The Coordinator General's approval is still valid for the project.
2. Kevin's Corner - Galilee Basin
The $6 billion GVK Hancock development includes an underground and open-cut coal mine with the ability to produce 30 million tonnes of thermal per year.
Kevin's Corner will follow the company's adjacent Alpha Coal Project. The mine is designed to be a stand-alone project that will ramp up to full production in five to seven years, following a two-year construction period.
The project holds Environmental Authority.
Once operational, Kevin's Corner is expected to employ thousands of people, with a peak workforce of about 2500 during construction and 1600 to 1800 during operations.
3. Alpha Coal - Galilee Basin
It is the jewel in the GVH Hancock crown and possibly even of the Galilee. Alpha Coal's open-cut operation has an expected mine life of more than 30 years with the possibility of further development with capitalisation of underground resources.
On top of the significant $6.8 billion investment to develop the mine, a further $4 billion has been proposed for adjoining rail and port infrastructure which would also be used by the Kevin's Corner project.
Combined, both Kevin's Corner and Alpha Coal would produce a combined resource of 7.9 billion tonnes of thermal coal.
Company director Raju Gottumukkala said shareholders of Alpha Coal and Kevin's Corner would look to progress both projects "at the right time".
4. AMCI's South Galilee Coal Project
Approved by the Department of Environment in 2015, the South Galilee Coal project proposes an open-cut and underground thermal coal operation near Alpha.
The $4.2 billion project is estimated to have a yield of up to 17 million tonnes per annum. Thermal coal mines from South Galilee would be exported through the Port of Gladstone.
Coal handling infrastructure, mine water management systems, a rail spur connecting to the Central Western Railway and an on-site accommodation village are included in the proposal.
The project is estimated to support 1600 construction jobs and 1288 operational jobs.
In October 2017, the Coordinator-General fixed a new lapse date for the Coordinator-General's evaluation report of December 2, 2019.
5.Waratah Coal's North Alpha Mining
Clive Palmer's Waratah Coal's North Alpha Project would comprise two open-cut and four underground longwall mining operations adjacent to the Adani Carmichael project.
Coal handling preparation plants and a rail spur transportation network to Galilee Coal Project rail network would be developed at the site.
The 144,000ha project would eventually mine 56 Mtpa of run-of-mine coal but the project will start with a 10 Mtpa mining operation before increasing.
6. Waratah Coal's China First Coal Project (Northern Export Facility)
The Galilee Coal Project, also referred to as the China First Coal Project, is a 40 mega-tonne per annum thermal coal mine and 453km rail network to the port of Abbot Point, from where the coal would be exported.
Comprising two open cut operations and four underground longwall mining operations Waratah Coal has also proposed coal handling preparation plants, a 453km rail network to Abbot Point, as well as a port facility.
In December 2013 the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment granted approval of controlled action, subject to conditions. This approval only relates to mine and rail components, the port component will undergo a separate approval process.
As the QRC is not privy to the inside mechanics and progress of the companies, Mr Macfarlane would not be drawn on which project would be the first to follow Adani's footsteps. But, he said he was "optimistic" at least two or three more projects would come to fruition in the next 10 years.
Other Queensland mining projects you might not know about:
1. South32's Eagle Downs - Bowen Basin
About 25km south-east of Moranbah the Eagle Downs project, which would see the production of a multi-seam underground longwall metallurgical coal mine, is in its final feasibility study phase.
In September 2018, South 32 acquired 50 per cent interest in the mine and assumed operatorship of the project - the further 50 percent is held by Aquila Resources. A South 32 company spokesperson said studies were progressing for the mine which was fully permitted and partially developed.
He said the company would make a final investment decision during the second half of 2020.
Once operational, Eagle Downs is expected to maintain about 500 jobs.
2. Red Hill - Bowen Basin
The Red Hill project was granted Commonwealth approval, pending conditions, in 2015.
Proposed by BMA, the development would see a new underground coking coal mine (Red Hill Mine) and the expansion of two existing coking coal mines, Broadmeadow and Goonyella Riverside.
Just north of Moranbah in the Isaac region, Government documents show the expansion and development would support 2000 (construction) and 1500 (operational) jobs.
But a spokesman for BMA said there were currently no immediate plans for the project.
The proposed $1 billion metallurgical coal mine with an estimated yield of up to 8 million tonnes over 30 years has entered the public consultation phase.
Whitehaven WS Pty Ltd are the proponents of the open-cut mine, pegged to start construction within two years.
As well as the development of an open-cut metallurgical coal mine, a large amount of mine infrastructure has been proposed.
It includes workshops, a coal handling and preparation plant, rail loop and train load out facility, private access road, raw water pipeline connecting to the Eungella pipeline network, electricity transmission line from the existing power network and an on-site temporary construction accommodation camp
Information on the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning website outlines the project is expected to provide 500 construction and 450 operational jobs.
Submissions for public consultation close 5pm on July 19, 2019.