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Rockhampton and Gladstone becoming mining boom epicentres

The test pit at the GVK Hancock Alpha coal project in the Galilee Basin west of Rockhampton.
The test pit at the GVK Hancock Alpha coal project in the Galilee Basin west of Rockhampton. Patrick Hamilton

THE hiccuping of Queensland's traditional engine room in Central Queensland is being drowned out by the economic roars from new frontiers in coal and gas.

Mines in the Bowen Basin, west of Mackay, have long been the epicentre of the State's coal mining booms but new figures point to the emerging Galilee Basin west of Rockhampton and Curtis Island near Gladstone powering up to take its place.

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

BREE 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.

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 the figures appear paltry when compared with $60.8 billion being invested in liquefied natural gas projects near Gladstone.

Those 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 the Galilee Basin, which - if all were successful - would deliver 130 million more tonnes of thermal coal a year for export.

BREE 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," Mr Barber said.

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

He said while mineral prices remained low, 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," Mr Ferguson said.

Topics:  boom, gladstone, mining, rockhampton


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