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The Queensland Coordinator-General today released the draft terms of reference for an environmental impact assessment for the Wandoan Coal Project.

A consortium led by the world’s largest producer of export thermal coal, Xstrata Coal, is proposing to develop a 30 million-tonnes-a-year open cut mine near Wandoan, 350 km north-west of Brisbane.

In December 2007 Coordinator-General Colin Jensen declared the Wandoan Coal Project a ‘significant project’ for which an environmental impact statement (EIS) is required.

Released today for public comment, the EIS draft terms of reference require an assessment of the proposed mine and associated infrastructure, including workers’ accommodation.

“As part of the EIS a number of studies will need to be undertaken to assess the project’s effects on flora, fauna, water resources, air quality, noise, visual amenity and socio-economic factors in the study area,” Mr Jensen said.

“The project would employ 1350 people during construction and approximately 750 during operations.

The ability to meet the project’s water and energy needs would be critical to its success.

“About 8500 megalitres of water a year would be required to wash 30 million tonnes of coal,” Mr Jensen said.

“Xstrata Coal is looking at a number of water supply options, including treated by-product water from coal seam gas operations located more than 80km south and west of Wandoan, or water from a raised Glebe Weir on the Dawson River.

“It plans to investigate the impacts of any groundwater extractions as part of its EIS and proposes to develop a water management system that maximises reuse and prevents mine water discharges from the site.

“The proponent is also considering the power needs of the project, which may require upgrades to the area’s existing electricity transmission system and distribution network or a small-scale, dedicated gas-fired power station.

“As this is the first major coal mine in this part of the Surat Basin I am mindful that State, Regional Councils and industry will need to work together to ensure sustainable community development.

“The Department of Infrastructure and Planning and the Department of Tourism, Regional Development and Industry is undertaking strategic assessments and background studies to assist in accelerating regional planning in the Surat / Darling Downs region,” Mr Jensen said.

In response to the anticipated growth in the region, the State Government is also investigating establishing a leadership group , involving relevant State agencies, local Councils and industry to guide future sustainable community development.

Xstrata Coal is also part of a consortium that has been granted an exclusive mandate by the state government to investigate the Surat Basin Railway—the 210km “southern missing link” connecting Wandoan and Banana.

Coal from Wandoan would be transported by rail to a possible new coal terminal at Port Alma and the Port of Gladstone for export through the proposed Wiggins Island Coal Terminal, due to open in 2010.

On behalf of the Coordinator-General, the Department of Infrastructure and Planning is managing a separate EIS process for the Surat Basin Railway.

For more information, view the Wandoan Coal project on this website. The draft Terms of Reference are available for comment for four weeks until the 15 September 2008.

Background

In December 2007, the Coordinator General declared the Wandoan Coal Project a ‘significant project’ for which an EIS is required.

The project is an updated and refined version of the Wandoan Project, which was declared a ‘significant project’ in March 2007.

However, new circumstances—including legislative changes, an increase in coal output, and refined water and energy supply options—led to the original declaration being withdrawn at the proponent’s request.

Surat Basin Railway

Xstrata Coal is part of a consortium that has been granted an exclusive mandate by the state government to investigate the $1 billion Surat Basin Railway (SBR)—the 207 km “southern missing link” connecting Wandoan and Banana.

Coal from Wandoan would be transported by rail to the Port of Gladstone (or Port Alma) for export through the proposed Wiggins Island Coal Terminal, recently approved by the federal government and due to open in 2012–2013.

The SBR is the subject of a separate EIS.