Regional coal exploration in Galilee Basin

Renewed interest in the coal resources of the Galilee Basin led to an upsurge in grassroots exploration programmes from around the mid-2000s. This is reflected in the significant number of EPCs granted, either wholly or partly, within the Galilee subregion during this time (refer to Section 1.2.2). In recent years there have been many coal exploration programmes active in the Galilee Basin, led by diverse exploration and development companies. Analysis of the number and size of EPC tenements in the Galilee Basin indicates that the main exploration portfolios are currently held by:

  • Waratah Coal – currently controls the greatest number of EPC tenements of any single entity in the Galilee Basin (14 EPC tenements), with efforts mostly focused around their major coal resource discoveries at the China First, Alpha North and Carmichael East projects.
  • Guildford Coal – the main publically listed Australian company exploring in the Galilee Basin, Guildford Coal are focused on their Hughenden, Pentland and Clyde Park prospects in the northern Galilee subregion (Figure 16). The total identified resource across all of Guildford’s Galilee tenements is nearly 2 billion tonnes, as reported in accordance with the JORC Code (Guildford Coal, 2013). In late September 2014, Guildford Coal was advised of a conditional off-market takeover bid by Sino Construction Ltd (Guildford Coal, 2014b).
  • Cockatoo Coal – the takeover of Blackwood Corporation Ltd (Blackwood Corporation) by Cockatoo Coal in early 2014 means that they now own the former Blackwood Galilee Basin tenements at South Pentland, North Hughenden and Carmichael North. The current main focus of Cockatoo Coal seems to be on expanding their existing Baralaba Coal Mine operation in the Bowen Basin (Cockatoo Coal, 2013). However, further exploration and appraisal efforts by Cockatoo Coal in the Galilee Basin continue to build upon the previous efforts of Blackwood Corporation. For example, in September 2014 Cockatoo Coal announced a resource upgrade at South Pentland, with a total identified resource of 445 Mt comprising 94 Mt of indicated resource and 351 Mt inferred resource (Cockatoo Coal, 2014).
  • Coalbank – focused mainly on exploring for the lower rank coals of the Jurassic and Cretaceous Eromanga Basin, Coalbank (mostly through their wholly owned subsidiary, Tambo Coal and Gas Pty Ltd) controls significant tenement position stretching south-east from Blackall to the Galilee subregion boundary (and beyond into the part of the Eromanga Basin that occurs outside of the Galilee subregion).
  • Fox Resources Ltd (Fox Resources) – following recent acquisition of tenement holdings from Cliffs Australia Coal Pty Ltd, Fox Resources control 11 EPCs in the south-eastern Galilee Basin. Available information indicates that Fox Resources are mainly focused on negotiating with potential joint venture partners to fund further exploration of these coal tenements (Fox Resources, 2014).

A summary of some important exploration results reported by various companies in the Galilee Basin in recent times is in Table 11 (not including the deposits which are previously listed in the proposals section).

As well as greenfield exploration programmes, some of the main development companies in the Galilee Basin are working on further delineating the extent of their known coal resources, with a view towards better understanding the dimensions and quality of these coal deposits and potentially increasing the size of their total resources. For example, Waratah Coal is undertaking additional exploration work around the China First Coal Project to potentially delineate additional coal resources (Waratah Coal, 2013a).

Figure 16

Figure 16 Galilee Basin exploration tenements for Guildford Coal in the northern Galilee subregion

Source data: Queensland DNRM (2014a). The regional project names of Hughenden, Clyde Park and Pentland for tenement collections are those used by Guildford Coal.

The Galilee Basin has clearly been the focus of major exploration investment in recent times, leading to many economically significant greenfield coal discoveries. However, despite these exploration successes, the enormous size of the basin (about 250,000 km2) and the numerous exploration tenements which support considerable ongoing exploration activities suggest that the known resource base of the Galilee Basin may continue to grow. Although it is uncertain if new discoveries will rival the large size of many of the current mining proposals, the basin’s relatively modest exploration maturity suggests that further coal resource discoveries are possible. Consequently, the current resource base known for the Galilee Basin may not reflect the actual in situ coal resource tonnage. It is possible that other coal resource developments (such as arising from initial exploration prospects or perhaps those not yet discovered) may be developed over the coming 10 to 20 years (or even further into the future) in the Galilee Basin.

Table 12 Recent coal resource discoveries in Galilee Basin

Project name

Principal company

Exploration tenements

Target stratigraphy

Identified resources

Current status



Guildford Coal

EPC 1477, EPC 1478

Late Permian Betts Creek beds. The Jurassic Blantyre beds of the Injune Creek Group in Eromanga Basin are also considered a potential exploration target, but there are no identified resources at present

133 Mt indicated resource and 1076 Mt inferred resource of thermal coal (Guildford Coal, 2013)

Further drilling of the inferred resource is planned to better delineate the deposit and improve geological confidence of the resource

The Hughenden Project consists of numerous EPC tenements that together relate to the total exploration target resource. The inferred resource at Hughenden is within EPC 1477 and EPC 1478. A larger exploration target of between 285 to 2830 Mt of thermal coal is defined across the other tenement holdings.

The Hughenden resource is suitable for underground mining (350 to 600 m below surface) (Guildford Coal, 2013).

South Pentland

Cockatoo Coal (following takeover of Blackwood Corporation in early 2014)

EPC 1486, EPC 1762

Betts Creek beds

Export quality thermal coal, with 445 Mt identified resource comprising 94 Mt indicated and 351 Mt inferred (Cockatoo Coal, 2014)

Blackwood Corporation was undertaking a mine concept plan at South Pentland prior to takeover

Located 54 km south of Pentland. There is a tenement exploration target of over 3 billion tonnes (Blackwood Corporation, 2013).

Yellow Jacket

Cuesta Coal

EPC 1802

Late Permian Betts Creek beds (suspected, although the successful drillholes occur east of the existing known extent of the Permian Galilee Basin)

Thermal coal 364 Mt inferred resource (Cuesta, 2013)

Further exploration and resource evaluation work including geological modelling and coal sample analyses

The initial exploration success requires further evaluation prior to potential mine concept planning. Cuesta also holds other exploration tenements within the eastern Galilee subregion.



EPC 1993, EPC 1719

Cretaceous Winton Formation

Sub-bituminous coal consisting of 1300 Mt inferred resource, of which 825 Mt is at depth of less than 50 m below surface (Coalbank, 2013)

Initial mine concept study area about 13 km long by 5 km wide selected for further evaluation based on review of geological model. Further drilling programmes required to improve understanding of resource and provide input to next stage of modelling

Located south of Blackall, the Inverness deposit occurs in the western part of EPC 1993.

The exploration projects listed here are those within the Galilee subregion that have been identified as having a coal resource compliant with the Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) Code. EPC is exploration permit for coal

Last updated:
5 January 2018
Thumbnail of the Galilee subregion

Product Finalisation date