Tuesday 03 July – Blue Sky Mining by Shift Miner
THE coal sector in Central Queensland is hurting, but if businesses look up there is reason for optimism.
Investors are once again flying into the region.
“We’ve certainly seen a spike in investor tours in the Bowen and Galilee Basins and they tend to give us an indication there is some movement,” Adagold Aviation chief executive Mal Sandford told Shift Miner.
“The inquiry started coming through before Christmas… and while it’s certainly not a flood there have been regular tours from a whole range of people.
“If you talk to anyone in the coal sector they say it’s still two years away from recovery so it is a little surprising really.”
Despite a gloomy outlook for coal prices in the short term, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines central region director Peter Donaghy gave an optimistic outlook for the future of the Bowen and Galilee Basins recently.
“Right now the prices aren’t terrific for getting projects up, but the medium-term view is very, very strong,” Mr Donaghy told the Central Highlands Development Corporation’s Investing in our Future conference in Emerald.
In fact, 11 companies and as many as 13 projects could have the necessary approval to begin mining in the region in the next two years, according to official department predictions.
The Galilee Basin is creating a lot of interest among local supply chain businesses, but a lot of its success will hinge on the sky.
The coal mines proposed for the area are massive, and with no substantial local population to draw from, all will require fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workforces.
There is no airport within the region that can cater for such a demand, so all proponents are looking to build their own.
“We have already given some advice on how companies could look to do that because they are greenfields sites,” said Mr Sandford.
“It will require a lot of infrastructure and expenditure and it can either be done initially at the start or the costs of creating an airstrip spread over the construction phase as they start to use bigger planes.”
Mr Sandford said mining companies would need to make key operational decisions now to adequately plan for airports, because getting it wrong would be costly.
“It comes right back to how the mine roster will work, how many people you need and how frequently because that will determine what aeroplanes will fly in there,” he said.
“If you’re going to need 50-100 seater planes it will need to be a substantial runway with fuel facilities and infrastructure for handling passengers.
“That sort of thing can’t be built in a couple of weeks, and to get it wrong could be a multi-million dollar mistake.”
The cost of building an airport is also hugely variable.
“It’s a bit like how long’s a piece of string,” said Mr Sandford.
“It could be between $10-15 million or between $70-80 million and depend on a range of factors including soil type and what sort of aeroplanes need to land there.”
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