2.3.4 Baseline and coal resource development pathway


Coal seams were first discovered in the geological Galilee Basin more than 100 years ago, and there are now about 20 identified coal resources within the Galilee subregion. Most deposits contain high volatile, low rank black coal hosted in Permian-age strata. However, although many world-class thermal coal deposits occur in the Galilee subregion, as of mid-2016 no commercially producing coal mines have ever operated there. Likewise, there has been no commercial-scale coal seam gas (CSG) production, although several pilot projects have confirmed that CSG does occur in the Permian coal layers and can be recovered. The geographic isolation and lack of mine-enabling infrastructure have long hampered exploration and development of the massive coal deposits of the Galilee Basin, although a number of large-scale coal mine proposals were submitted for regulatory approval between 2008 and 2014.

For the purposes of the bioregional assessment (BA) for the Galilee subregion, the absence of commercially producing coal mines and CSG fields in the Galilee subregion means that there are no coal resource developments being quantitatively modelled in the baseline. This is an important point, as it means that the focus of hydrological modelling and impact and risk analysis will be on the subregion’s additional coal resource development, that is, the combination of proposed coal mine and CSG developments that the Assessment team has evaluated as most likely to progress to commercial production at some time in the future (post the baseline date of December 2012).

The coal resource development pathway (CRDP) for the Galilee subregion includes 17 proposed new coal resource developments. Most of these are for large-scale thermal coal mines, with associated on-site mining development and coal processing infrastructure covering many thousands of hectares. There are 14 proposed new coal mines in the Galilee CRDP comprising: 3 open-cut coal mines (Alpha, Hyde Park and Blackall); 2 underground coal mines (Alpha West and Hughenden); 5 combined open-cut and underground coal mining operations (Carmichael, China First, China Stone, Kevin’s Corner and South Galilee); and 4 coal mines of currently unknown type (Clyde Park, Milray, Pentland and West Pentland). The CRDP for the Galilee subregion also includes three early-stage CSG projects, namely the Galilee Gas Project, Gunn pilot site and Blue Energy operations, focused in the central zone of the Galilee Basin, where a recognised CSG resource fairway exists.

Of the total number of proposed developments in the CRDP for the Galilee subregion, there is sufficient information publicly available to include seven coal mines in the numerical modelling for the Galilee subregion. Thus, the modelled CRDP for the BA for the Galilee subregion, which is focused on the central-eastern margin of the subregion, includes the proposed coal mines at Alpha, Carmichael, China First, China Stone, Hyde Park, Kevin’s Corner and South Galilee. These are the most advanced mining proposals in terms of the various environmental and mining-related approvals processes required prior to the start of commercial production. The other coal mine (Alpha West, Blackall, Clyde Park, Hughenden, Milray, Pentland and West Pentland) and CSG developments (Galilee Gas, Gunn and Blue Energy) in the CRDP will not be assessed by hydrological modelling in this iteration of the BA. However, qualitative analysis of potential development-related impacts to water resources and water-dependent assets for the non-modelled CRDP will be reported in companion product 3-4 (impact and risk analysis) for the Galilee subregion.

Detailed information on water management is only available for the six coal mine developments which have thus far submitted their environmental impact statements (excludes Hyde Park from those listed in the modelled CRDP). There are many common elements to the proposed water management strategies for these large mining complexes, including surface water is diverted around the mine and infrastructure areas (where possible), and any water retained in the mine area will be used for mining or related purposes (this includes groundwater pumped to dewater the mines). Also, there will be progressive rehabilitation of mined-out areas as mining operations advance over time. Thus, the amount of surface area that is disconnected from part of a river basin due to mining may vary during life of mine.

Last updated:
17 December 2018