Queensland approves A$4bn BHP-Mitsubishi coal mine

13th August 2010 By: Esmarie Iannucci - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Queensland government has granted conditional approval for the A$4-billion Caval Ridge coal mine, owned by BHP Billiton and its joint-venture (JV) partner Mitsubishi.

Treasurer Andrew Fraser reported that the approval was subject to a raft of strict development and operating constraints.

Infrastructure and Planning Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the coordinator-general’s report has stipulated the most prescriptive and comprehensive set of conditions for a coal mine in Queensland, to date.

“The conditions set clear principles and procedures with respect to air quality monitoring, dust and water management, community consultation and the mitigation of potential social impacts of the mine,” he said.

“Other conditions include a requirement for extensive vegetation offsets and infrastructure agreements on road impacts, particularly the Peak Downs highway.”

The coordinator-general’s conditions also require a network of 16 air monitoring stations located around the mine and towards the Moranbah township, a housing impact plan to provide worker accommodation and related accommodation in Moranbah, and the implementation of controls to guard against adverse weather conditions.

This project is expected to create 1 200 construction jobs and 495 ongoing operational jobs for up to 30 years, Fraser said.

The construction of the mine could start in 2011, with first coal exports by 2014.

“The project proponent is the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA), Queensland’s largest coal exporter and they obviously see a prosperous future in Queensland,” Fraser said.

The coordinator-general’s evaluation comes after more than 18 months of rigorous environmental-impact assessment (EIS). The report will now be provided to the Environment Minister for further assessment under commonwealth environmental legislation.

If the project proceeded, it would see construction of a new opencut coal mine that straddles the Peak Downs Highway near Moranbah, 170 km south-west of Mackay.

The mine will produce 5,5-million tons of coal each year for the next 30 years and process an additional 2,5-million tons each year from BMA’s adjacent Peak Downs Mine.

Caval Ridge is just one part of a larger Bowen basin coal growth project being developed by BMA, which includes the new Daunia mine, a large expansion of the existing Goonyella Riverside mine and the relocation and upgrade of the Moranbah airport.

The coordinator-general’s report for the Daunia mine was finalised in October 2009, and that mine now has its state and Commonwealth approvals.

The EIS for the Goonyella Riverside mine expansion is expected to be available for public comment before mid-2011.