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Queensland miners gain access to vast new exploration reserves

Business

Almost 7000 square kilometres of land will be released for coal and gas exploration as part of a raft of measures to ensure the survival of the resources sector through the coronavirus pandemic, the Queensland Government has announced.

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Companies will be able to bid for tenders to explore two new areas of land near Moranbah in North Queensland from today.

Another 6700 square kilometres, made up of parcels of land near Blackwater, Rolleston, Banana, Moonie, Injune and Surat, would open for tender later this month.

Queensland Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said he was confident there would be a long-term market for the gas, which had experienced market challenges during the pandemic.

“A strong exploration pipeline is critical because we need those jobs to stay out in regional Queensland,” he said.”When coronavirus eventually leaves us we need the exploration sector to lead the economy out of the mire — a third of those tenders are for domestic gas only.”

Lynham said investors in the resource industry would look beyond current market challenges for the product.

“Gas prices will go up and down, but the trajectory for the future is that Queensland is a great place to invest,” he said.

Some of the land to be released is currently used for agriculture.

Lynham said the Government had worked hard, with the help of independent bodies like the Gasfields Commission, to build a co-existence model between the two industries.

“We’ve proven that, we’ve developed it over some time,” he said.

“People can look in the Country Life [publication] and you can go online and you can see that farms are being sold with the attractive addition of an income from resources.

“Also with water extraction, some farmers have the additional benefit of having that water available for agriculture.”

‘No significant benefit to communities’

But Vicki Perrin, regional coordinator for the Lock the Gate Alliance, was not convinced of the promised benefits.

“Releasing more land at a time when we should be protecting farmland and the water it depends on just makes no sense at all,” she said.

“There is no significant benefit to communities — it’s a boom and bust economy — while it’s certainly great for a little while, it’s certainly not great in the long-term.”

As part of the so-called $13.8 million “survival and revival” resource industry package, the State Government was waiving rent on exploration land until the start of September.

The Government was also freezing fees and charges for explorers until July 2021.

“We have to ensure the survival of our explorers, many of them small to medium businesses, until the current situation improves and the economy recovers,” Lynham said.

But Perrin said the State Government should be investing in regional communities differently.

“What I would say — as far as injecting money into the Queensland economy — I think they’ve [resources sector] taken a lot more than they’ve given over the years,” she said.

“If an exploration company can’t pay … for its exploration tenures per year, then we have to question whether they should be trusted with our land and drilling through our precious aquifers.”

– ABC / Jemima Burt and Melissa Maykin

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