Coal and Gas Rush
What is the Coal and Gas Rush?
The State government is promoting the massive expansion of coal mining across Queensland and the development of a new export industry based on coal seam gas (CSG).
Premier Bligh wants to increase coal production from 190 million tonnes to 340 million tonnes per annum. There are at least 40 new or expanded coal mines currently under consideration and these will be some of the biggest open-cut coal mines in the world.
In November 2010, a 30 megatonne open-cut coal mine — the biggest in the southern hemisphere to date — was approved in Wandoan, but in the Galilee basin of central Queensland there are plans for 110 megatonne open-cut coal mines.
There are new approvals for open cut coal mines on rich agricultural land all around Queensland, including the Darling Downs and the Fitzroy Basin. Eighty-percent of the state is now under a mining lease or exploration permit of some kind for coal or CSG, including on nature refuges, prime farmland, on the Mary River which Queenslanders fought so hard to save from the Traveston Dam and adjoining the whale sanctuary of Wide Bay.
CSG (commonly called ‘natural gas’) is a relatively new industry in Australia. It involves extracting methane from the coal seams by drawing huge amounts of toxic, salt-laden water to the surface. It also uses a process called ‘fracking’ where tonnes of deadly chemicals (about 18,000kg per well) are injected into underground aquifers and the ground is broken up with explosives to release the gas.
There are now 1,000 gas wells across the Darling Downs but the CSG industry plans for over 40,000 wells which could easily contaminate and destabilise the entire Great Artesian Basin. The gas will be condensed, piped to Gladstone where it will be liquefied (LNG), then exported.
Giant LNG plants are planned at Abbott Point (just north of Bowen) and the Premier has committed to protect only a portion of this land. There are CSG tenures over 50% of central Queensland and 75% of southern Queensland