September 17, 2015
Moreton Resources CEO Jason Elks addressed the South Burnett Regional Council at its Wednesday meeting to inform Councillors and senior executives about the company’s plans to develop a coal mine south of Kingaroy.
Mr Elks said that in the normal course of events, councils were often the last people to hear about mining developments in their area.
But Moreton was keen to keep the community fully informed about the company’s plans at every step, and that was why he was addressing the meeting.
Mr Elks explained he was a former “Kingaroy boy” and Moreton Resources was a different company to their predecessor Cougar Energy, which had attempted to set up a pilot UCG (Underground Coal Gasification) plant at Coolabunia in 2010.
Moreton Resources now has a different executive team and the firm’s interests had shifted away from UCG to traditional coal mining.
Mr Elks said the Kingaroy UCG plant had been shut down in mid-2010 after traces of benzene and toluene were detected in nearby groundwater monitoring bores, and said the former company made an error by being tardy notifying relevant authorities about the findings.
But the level of hydrocarbons found in the water was 95 per cent lower than Australian drinking water guidelines, and Mr Elks said the State Government agreed the incident had caused no damage to the environment.
Even so, Moreton Resources had made good on its commitment to remove the plant from the South Burnett and rehabilitate the former UCG plant site.
He was very proud the company had kept its word to the community, despite having to make major outlays to do so.
Mr Elks said Cougar Energy invested more than $80 million in the South Burnett setting up its trial UCG operation.
Since that time, Moreton Resources had spent many hundreds of thousands more in the demobilisation works, rehabilitation works and ongoing operational works.
It had also donated former mine site equipment to many South Burnett organisations.
“Moreton Resources is committed to the environment; the communities in which we operate; the safe operation of any development; and ensuring open and transparent communication with all stakeholders,” Mr Elks said.
He said he believed coal had a big future in Australia for the foreseeable future, despite some current negative sentiment towards it in the market.
Coal-generated power was still the only practical option for some industries, like steel production, and improvements in power generation technology had made it a cleaner option than it had once been.
He went on to tell Councillors his company was currently assessing its major South Burnett coal asset – MDL385 – to see if it can be turned into a working coal mine.
The company had hired a mining consultant to conduct a pre-feasibility study of the project.
If the outcome of the study was favourable, the company would proceed to the next stage of development.
Mr Elks said the focus of MDL 385, if it was developed, would be on supplying competitive, superior quality coal. But he stressed that there were many stages that would need to be gone through, and many hurdles to surmount, before any new coal mine could come into existence.
“Coal (mining) is one of the most regulated industries there is in Queensland,” he said.
One objective of the study would be to determine likely future customers for the mine’s output.
He said tests indicated the area had high-quality coal seams up to 10m thick which could be strip-mined very efficiently with a very small footprint on the surrounding area.
“This project has the potential to secure the economic future of the South Burnett,” Mr Elks said.
“But we need to determine its feasibility first, and that’s what we’re doing at the moment.”
Mr Elks said Moreton believed community support in the areas and regions in which it operated was vital, and he would like to get the South Burnett community’s support for the potential project.
“The next six to 12 months will see a strong focus on the environment, communities, cultural heritage, social impacts and other stakeholder considerations while we evaluate the potential for advancement to a full operation,” he said.