Galilee Basin could be new horizon for Qld coal

WITH Adani finally securing the last approvals it needs to start building its proposed Carmichael rail and infrastructure project in Queensland, attention has turned to other projects slated for the Galilee Basin.
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Federal Resources minister Matt Canavan.

There have been six mine project proposals put before the Federal Department of Environment and Energy in Queensland's newest thermal coal mining province.


Two belong to Clive Palmer's Waratah Coal and two to GVK Hancock, which is part-owned by Gina Rinehart.


A proposal for an underground and open cut mine was put forward by Macmines, however, that project's future is in doubt.


Waratah Coal has been granted 12 coal exploration permits in the Galilee Basin and has applied for two mining leases covering approximately 220,000 hectares of land.


It could produce more than 120 million tonnes of coal per year in total from its Galilee Basin tenements.


GVK Hancock, which is a joint venture between Hancock Prospecting and Indian infrastructure company GVK, was the first company to propose a Galilee Basin mine in 2008.


The JV's proposed Kevin's Corner project would create 1600 operational jobs with two open-cut mines, three underground mines, coal handling facilities, mine waste and water facilities, airport and accommodation village.


The Mining Lease Application covers about 37,000 hectares and the total output would be up to 30 million tonnes per annum.


It has been approved under national environment law in 2013, with strict conditions, while the mining lease application is still under assessment by the Queensland government.


It has been granted an Environmental Impact Statement with strict conditions.  


GVK Hancock's Alpha Coal project is expected to create 990 operational jobs with six open cut coal pits and infrastructure.


The Mining Lease Application is for about 32,000 hectares and proposed output is 30Mtpa.


The federal government approved the project with conditions in 2012 and its mining lease application is still under assessment by the Queensland government.


The bruising political fight endured by Indian giant Adani to bring its Carmichael project thus far and changes to its rail infrastructure may have discouraged its Galilee Basin neighbour Macmines from pursuing its $6.7 billion China Stone open cut and underground thermal coal project.


The company chose in March not to pursue mining leases for the two mines, which at one time promised to create more than 3000 jobs.


This is despite the project being granted conditional approval by the Queensland government for five mining leases.


At peak production the project was slated to produce up to 38 million tonnes per annum of thermal coal for export to China.


Macmines continues to hold an exploration permit for coal and a mineral development licence, however, mining and other activities associated with mining cannot take place until a lease is granted.


It can still apply for mining leases in the future although analysts believe the economics of the project no longer stacked up once Adani changed its plans for the rail link to the port at Abbot Point.


"There is also good potential for expanded earnings as output from existing coal basins is increased and the Galilee Basin is brought into production," Canavan said.


"Mining is creating high-skill, high-pay jobs throughout Australia, often in regional areas.


"Australia's mining boom is far from over."


Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said Queensland has an enormous opportunity in the Galilee Basin, despite naysayers who claim that proposed coal projects would be marginal operations. 


"We have an enormous opportunity as a country and as a state to develop the third major coal basin in Australia," Canavan said.


"We haven't developed a coal basin for 50 years, nearly 50 years, in Australia.  The last one was the Bowen Basin here in Central Queensland.


"The Galilee Basin alone could generate 16,000 jobs, they are the jobs figures submitted by six coal mines that have received approval by the Queensland government and those job figures are modelled on their environmental impact statements."


The coal in the Galilee Basin is 60% better, it has an energy content of 60% greater than the coal in India which it will displace by the development of this basin, according to Canavan. 


"I am confident that the development of the Galilee Basin makes sense in terms of the world's energy needs," he said.


"There is enormous demand for coal from India, it's why we've got companies like Adani interested in developing that resource, it's why we've got five other mines with approval that are interested in developing the Galilee Basin. 


"From everything I've seen the development of the Galilee Basin makes sense, providing that the world can continue to grow and India can continue to achieve its targets to electrify its country and provide electricity to 300 million people in India who currently don't have access to any electricity."


Queensland Resources Council CEO Ian Macfarlane said each project in the Galilee Basi nshould be reviewed according to consistent requirements and on consistent timetables.


"QRC welcomes the recent decision from the Premier to ensure the Coordinator-General plays an overarching role for the approvals process, and we welcome the LNP's commitment to a more structured approval process for mining projects," he said.


"The Queensland Parliament should also act swiftly to reject the Greens' job-destroying Mineral Resources (Galilee Basin) Amendment Bill 2018 (Qld) which wants to ban all mining in the Galilee."


Adani was "actually the ice-breaker that will lay down those baselines and will provide the infrastructure", Macfarlane told the ABC.


"What's going to happen with the groundwater application and its potential approval is that any further applicants will have not only the infrastructure to get the coal out because the railway line will be there," he reportedly said.


"They'll also have a baseline of where they can work from in terms of both the black-throated finch, the groundwater and then thirdly, the general environmental conditions they have to adhere to as part of opening a new basin.


"So the proponents coming behind it, quite frankly, will have a much easier run than Adani.


"The first proponent always has the most difficult run."


Meanwhile, IEEFA Energy Finance Studies director Tim Buckley said exploiting the Galilee Basin for thermal coal is "a dud bet, a very poor investment decision".


"Thermal coal is rapidly approaching technological obsolescence," he said. "Adani has shown new thermal coal basins are unbankable and of marginal viability."