Mines minister puts long forgotten mega mine back on the agenda
Wednesday 10 May 2017
Mining giant Glencore is pushing ahead with the approvals process for its Wandoan mega-mine five years after it put the project on the backburner.
The Wandoan coal project is the most advanced of all Queensland’s mega coal mine proposals - including the much-hyped Adani Carmichael project in the Galilee Basin.
Glencore has all the necessary government approvals for the mine, as well as agreements in place with nearby landholders.
Mines Minister Anthony Lynham told the ABC this week that the department is working with Glencore to finalise the mining lease
“It looks promising,” he told the ABC.
“Glencore has shown interest, but we still have a rail line to be developed because we still have a missing link in that rail line from Wandoan all the way into Gladstone.
“So there's still significant infrastructure issues with that mine as well.”
Like the Galilee projects, the proposed Wandoan mine would redefine large scale coal mining in Australia.
The initial plan is to develop an open cut dragline mine capable of producing 30 million tonnes of coal a year, followed by stage 2 which would take annual production to 100 million tonnes.
According to plans released by the deposits former owner Xstrata in 2012, around 3000 construction jobs would be created building the mine and a large coal handling and preparation plant capable of processing nearly 6000 tonnes of coal an hour.
However, like the Galilee, the coal at Wandoan is stranded. That means coal can't be exported until a 210-kilometre railway track is built linking the mine with Gladstone port.
If they can get a mining lease approved - which some say could be just months away - Glencore then needs to decide whether thermal coal prices justify the enormous cost of building the mine and associated Surat Basin Railway.
In late 2012, the Surat Basin Railway project was cancelled by its partners because of the collapse in commodity prices, effectively ending all prospects for developing the Wandoan mega mine this decade.
Not long after acquiring Xstrata, Glencore also pulled the pin on a proposed billion dollar export terminal at Balaclava Island, north of Gladstone which originally would have been used to export Wandoan coal.
However, that job could now be done by Glencore's majority owned, and under-utilised Wiggins Island Coal Terminal.
In a carefully worded statement four years ago, a Glencore spokesperson told Shift Miner they were not ruling Wandoan in or out.
“Our Wandoan project is currently in the feasibility stage, and we are still awaiting the receipt of a mining lease,” they said in 2013.“Following receipt of our mining lease, a decision to proceed will be based on overall market conditions and the future outlook for the coal industry.”