On Friday thin-seam specialist Bounty announced it had secured the project farm-in, joint venture and a mine management contract with Aust-Pac Capital and the Kalpowar traditional landowners.
Under the arrangements Bounty could earn a 40% stake by taking the project up to the environmental impact statement stage plus the right to acquire an additional 11% before construction starts.
Wilderness Society Queensland campaign manager Dr Tim Seelig believes the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – which is considering whether the Great Barrier Reef should be listed a as world heritage site in danger – will not be onside.
“There is no question that UNESCO are going to have major problems with any proposal to be shifting coal from barges onto container ships in the Great Barrier Reef area," he told ABC News.
"That's just environmental madness. And it's inconceivable that UNESCO would allow that to happen.”
Bounty director Rob Stewart reportedly said UNESCO intervention was unlikely.
“If we thought that was a major concern then we'd have more issues about joining into the project at this stage," he reportedly said.
"We think we can overcome the concerns of that."
The project’s feasibility study is reportedly expected to take 18 months to complete.
The Wongai project so far has an inferred resource of 67.5 million tonnes.
Bounty aims to produce about 1.5 million tonnes per annum of high quality coking coal through carefully considered underground place change methods.
The coal is expected to be processed onsite and trucked 18km north to a northern barge loader before it is barged to load larger vessels offshore.
“There will be no need for major coal port infrastructure or major dredging of channels as existing facilities are amenable to barging and low impact transhipment,” Bounty said on Friday.
Bounty is also planning an initial drilling campaign to assist a scoping study and a project-related capital raising.
“This is a company-transforming event for Bounty and offers a long-term secure role should the resource delineation prove that an economically viable mine can be developed,” the contractor said.
“It will also be an exciting opportunity for the local Kalpowar traditional owners who want to develop sustainable employment and training opportunities in the Cape York region.”
The project is located in the Laura Basin about 150km north of Cairns.
The Queensland government gave it “significant project” status last year.
It has a potential mine life of at least 30 years and could provide up to 250 construction jobs.