Cooper subregion

Cooper Creek near Innamincka, SA, 23 May 2013 Credit: Dr Anthony Budd, Geoscience Australia

This bioregional assessment helps us understand how coal seam gas and coal mining development could affect water resources and water-dependent assets in the Cooper subregion. It identifies where potential impacts might occur, as well as the areas that are unlikely to be affected. Work being undertaken by the South Australian government has contributed to this bioregional assessment.

About this subregion

The Cooper subregion spans south-west Queensland and north-east South Australia. It is part of the Lake Eyre Basin bioregion and adjoins the Galilee subregion in the north-east. Localities in this sparsely populated subregion include Innamincka, Cameron Corner and Moomba. Land is mainly used for cattle grazing of native and semi-natural pasture. The vegetation in this subregion is characterised by sparse shrubs, hummock grasses and scattered grassland. Groundwater is primarily used for livestock watering and by petroleum and conventional gas extraction industries.

All of the rivers and lakes in this subregion are seasonal. Major streams include the Cooper Creek and the Thomson, Barcoo and Bulloo rivers. Significant nature conservation areas in this subregion encompass a number of protected areas and wetlands, including the internationally recognised Coongie Lakes and Lake Pinaroo. The Cooper subregion is home to a diverse range of plants and animals, including many that are listed as rare or threatened under Commonwealth and state government legislation.

Coal mining and coal seam gas operations

The subregion is underlain by rocks of different ages that belong to three geological basins: the Cooper, Eromanga and Lake Eyre basins. In the Cooper subregion, coal occurs in both the Cooper and Eromanga basins. The coal-bearing rocks in these basins are located more than 1000 metres below the surface, which is too deep for coal mining to be commercially viable. Although the Cooper subregion has a long history of petroleum and conventional gas production, coal seam gas is generally not targeted as a stand-alone resource. Instead, it is part of combined hydrocarbon targets that commonly occur with tight gas and shale gas in the same locality.

As at 1 June 2015, there was no coal mining or coal seam gas production in the Cooper subregion. The only stand-alone coal seam gas development, the Southern Cooper Basin Gas Project, is in the Weena Trough in the south-west of the Cooper Basin. The companies involved in this proposed development project are undertaking testing to assess the viability of full-scale coal seam gas production.

About the bioregional assessment

The bioregional assessment for the Cooper subregion includes compiling background information, identifying water-dependent assets and developing a data register. Results have shown that there is limited stand-alone coal seam gas development and low potential for further coal resource development in this subregion. As a consequence, analysis work has been limited to the conceptual modelling product. This work will describe the possible links between proposed coal seam gas development and the water-related features in the region.  This analysis may be used to guide future assessments or environmental studies.

Last updated:
8 April 2016
Did you know?
  • Area: 130,000 square kilometres
  • Population: 1032
  • Climate: generally hot and dry throughout
  • Annual rainfall: 200 to 300 millimetres