By Jeremy Sollars
Chinese mining giant Kaili Resources has succeeded in having a coal exploration permit for the Goomburra Valley extended until 2020 by the Queensland Government.
Kaili’s original Exploration Permit for Coal (EPC) 1506 expired in February this year, but the company appealed to the ALP Palaszczuk Government for an extension, which was granted in late August.
Landowners in the pristine valley north of Warwick remain concerned about the prospect of large-scale, open-cut coal mining at Goomburra, but Kaili’s consulting geologist has moved to hose down those fears – at least for the time being.
Sydney-based geologist Mark Berriman told Rural Links this month that while previous exploratory drilling had shown coal deposits at Goomburra were suitable for power station use – referred to as ‘thermal coal – it could be “years” before it was found to be available in commercially-viable quantities.
“It’s a really long bow to draw at this point to say it’s viable,” Mr Berriman said.
“Coal anywhere has an intrinsic value, but the commercial value of any of those deposits up there just hasn’t been studied or arrived at.
“There’s no timeframe around determining that at this point; it’s really a case of ‘how long is a piece of string?’
“And there are a lot of factors to be looked at – environmental, people, even heritage.
“What Kaili has is a permit to exploratory drilling, it’s not a licence to start mining coal.
“Exploration is a high-risk business, and it could be some years before the company decides there’s commercial viability there.”
Mr Berriman said landowners whose properties had previously been explored by Kaili and other previous resources companies had been closely consulted and had been “happy” with the process.
“Those test holes were converted into water bores, which is a win-win for everyone,” he said.
“Landholders will be kept firmly in the loop about any future exploration, and well and truly informed.”
Kaili’s EPC 1506 covers a huge swathe of country from east of Allora to the Great Dividing Range and south to the Cunningham Highway.
A secondary portion of the EPC covers areas including Willowvale, Massie and Bony Mountain just north-east of Warwick but Kaili documents available online do not indicate any coal bore hole drilling in that area to date.
A spokeswoman for the group ‘Guardians of Goomburra’ – a local group which advocates for protection of prime agricultural land and nature corridors in the valley and surrounding areas – told Rural Links it was “important to consider the best long term use of the most fertile land in the state”.
“Our group recently put a petition forward to State Parliament requesting an end to coal mining exploration to give certainty back to the region,” the spokeswoman said.
“Unfortunately, the (permit) was renewed despite community opposition.
“Our community will continue to oppose Kaili’s intentions to mine the Goomburra Valley.”
New Acland decision still pending
Meanwhile, a final decision on stage three of the New Acland coal mine north of Oakey is not expected before March 2018.
In late May, the Oakey Coal Action Alliance – made up of farmers and other landowners opposed to expansion of the New Acland mine – was jubilant after the Land Court of Queensland rejected outright owner New Hope Group’s stage three plan, for its mine near the town of Acland, which some have dubbed ‘the tiny town that wouldn’t die a mining death’.
But the Palaszczuk Government later allowed New Hope to lodge a judicial review of the Land Court ruling, with the review set for a Supreme Court hearing to begin on Monday 19 March 2018.