WARATAH Coal’s proposed $6.4 billion China First coal mine, rail, infrastructure development and Queensland export facility, also known as the Galilee Coal Project, has received Federal Government approval for its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Establishing the mine, rail and associated infrastructure will generate 3500 jobs during construction and 2275 jobs during operation.

Brisbane-based Waratah Coal, a subsidiary of Mineralogy, plans to build a thermal coal project in the Galilee Basin coal region near Alpha, west of Emerald in central west Queensland, as part of its China First project. The mine will be linked to a proposed coal terminal at Abbot Point near Bowen by a new 453km standard gauge, heavy-haul railway line, capable of carrying 400 million tonnes annually.

Managing director Nui Harris says environmental approval by the Ministry for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities marks an important milestone. “The EIS has involved consultation with stakeholders including federal and state government agencies as well as non-governmental agencies, local councils, indigenous representatives, the private sector, public organizations and local residents.”

The China First project last year was granted Major Project Facilitation (MPF) status renewal by the Federal Government until quarter four, 2016.

The Galilee project is proposed to consist of a combination of open cut and underground mining. It is projected to annually process 56 million tonnes of raw coal to produce 40 million tonnes of thermal coal for export over an expected life of about 30 years.

An evaluation report by Queensland coordinator-general Barry Broe was considered by the Federal Government during the approval process. He said the release of his report, including conditional approval, came after more than four years of rigorous environmental assessment and public consultation.

“I have stated a significant number of conditions and recommendations in my report that the proponent must implement fully,” he said. “The conditions establish clear principles and procedures to manage matters including surface and groundwater impacts, rail line flooding, and social impacts.” Waratah has agreed to offset the loss of values of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge and the coordinator-general has set conditions on this offset.

The project will proceed through a staged development process that targets first coal production to begin in late 2016. Exploration has confirmed significant ore reserves and mineral resources in four principal seams. There are resources of 3.684 billion tonnes comprising reserves of 1.105 billion tonnes.

It will produce, after blending and processing, an average yield of 72% of thermal coal with a product calorific value of 6350 kcal/kg, sulphur levels of 0.5%, ash levels of 10 to 11% and volatile matter levels of 34%.

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