December 6, 2014
For a project that caused so much angst in the local community, the former Cougar Energy underground coal gasification plant near Coolabunia has disappeared with very little fanfare.
All the above-ground infrastructure at UCG plant, which burned for less than 48 hours before two wells became blocked, has been either sold to local South Burnett businesses, donated to a local charity group for use on an indigenous youth project, or hauled away as scrap metal.
southburnett.com.au had the opportunity of visiting the processing site earlier this week.
Moreton Resources CEO Jason Elks said the company had promised to have the plant decommissioned by Christmas, but the Darling Downs contractors were working faster than he expected.
Between 300 and 400 cu metres of metal has been removed for recycling, and 320 tonnes of concrete broken up and taken to Council facilities.
All that remains are the entry road, a containment dam, a demountable office and a machinery shed.
Jason said the dam had been built to hold contaminated water from the UCG process, but because the plant operated for so short a period – and only burned out about a three cubic metre chamber in the coal seam – zero contaminants had been stored.
The black plastic lining would now be removed and the dam back-filled to the natural level, covered with top soil and re-seeded.
Almost 60 wells remain across the mineral development lease – six were part of the gas extraction process and the rest were water monitoring bores.
“We sent letters out late last week asking the landholders if they would like the bores left open for irrigation use. We can leave then open if they want to use them,” Jason said.
Otherwise, the bores will be filled with cement, capped and covered over.
Seven wells will retained for monitoring purposes, in accordance with the company’s Environmental Authority.
Jason said the company was pleased to have completed the decommissioning of the UCG plant in accordance with the promises made to the local community.
An amended plan will be be submitted to the Department of Environment and Heritage in the next few weeks in regards to underground rehabilitation, keeping in mind the company’s future plans to develop the area as a coal mine.
Moreton Resources hopes to develop an open cut coal mine in the south-west corner of its lease and is currently working on a mine concept study for the project.
Jason said Moreton Resources was looking forward to developing the coal project “whilst simultaneously creating jobs and opportunities for the local population and businesses”.
“We are also focused on ensuring that the project meets the highest standards of environmental management, and can be progressed in a way that meets the expectations of the community for sustainable development,” he said.
“We encourage all local community members, businesses and interested parties to log on to the company’s website and understand who Moreton Resources is, and what our core beliefs are.”
Final rehabilitation of the area will not be due until Moreton Resources relinquishes control of the block.