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Mining boom shifts to Curtis as gas surges ahead of coal

The QCLNG site on Curtis Island.
The QCLNG site on Curtis Island. David Sparkes

ANY hiccups in the state's traditional engine room of Central Queensland are being drowned out by the economic roar from new frontiers in coal and gas.

New data shows an economic shift in the region.

Mines in the Bowen Basin, west of Mackay, have long been the epicentre of the state's mining booms but new figures confirm the emerging Curtis Island and Galilee Basin are taking their place.

New figures from the Federal Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics released on Wednesday showed the extent of record-breaking investment in Australia's resources industry.

There were still 10 coal projects worth a total of $10.2 billion in the Bowen Basin, capable of creating at least 2800 building jobs and another 1610 to operate the mine.

On paper, those figures look paltry when compared to $60.8 billion being invested into liquefied natural gas projects on Curtis Island.

These projects will employ up to 17,000 through construction and up to 3000 once operating.

To the west, $23.15.billion is to be spent in Galilee Basin, which - if all were successful - would deliver 130 million more tonnes of thermal coal per year for export.

Bureau senior economist John Barber said the Bowen Basin lacked the enormous plans plotted for other parts of the state.

"There aren't that many mega projects in the Bowen Basin," Mr Barber said.

"There are some large ones, worth more than $1 billion, but not of the scale of the thermal coal and LNG elsewhere in the state."

Mr Barber said although there appeared to be a slowing in some areas, other parts of the state were making up for it.

"It's never a good thing for a community to have a project delayed or cancelled," he said.

"But when you look at a (state) level instead of regional impacts, it has seen growth due to those LNG projects."

Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson warned that big numbers did not guarantee a booming industry and challenges would persist.

"In the face of lower commodity prices, the delivery of this pipeline of projects is contingent on keeping production costs down, providing access to skilled labour and increasing our productivity and efficiency."

Bureau research found 87 committed developments worth $268.billion across the country with $78.4 billion or almost 30% coming from 22 projects planned for Queensland.

By comparison, New South Wales had 16 projects worth a total of $9.5.billion or 3.5% of the total.

BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance mothballed its Norwich Park and Gregory coal mines this year as coal prices waned.

It also postponed its Red Hill mine, a plan worth $2.2.billion.

Rio Tinto wound down its Blair Athol operation, which closed last week

Most mining giants also launched company-wide cost-cutting measures, often cutting the number of contractors.

Big numbers

  • 87 projects worth $268 billion across Australia.
  • 22 projects worth $78.4 billion in Queensland.
  • NSW had 16 projects worth $9.5 billion.

Topics:  central queensland, curtis island, mining boom


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