New prospects in mine search
RESIDENTS of the Wolvi and Neerdie-Anderleigh districts may soon have mining exploration teams drilling and surveying in their neighbourhoods, with major coal exploration leases current over nearly 600sq km of the Cooloola Coast hinterland.
Tiaro Coal Limited has already announced potentially major coal reserve discoveries in the Munna Creek-Tiaro district.
With reserves estimated at 20 to 30 million tonnes, the Munna Creek deposits could mean new wealth for many and, according to many others, a potential environmental and economic disaster for the Mary Basin and the Great Sandy Straits.
But in the picturesque and more populous Wolvi area, almost adjacent to the Cooloola National Park and the Noosa River, more intense opposition is expected.
The highly influential Noosa Parks Association, which successfully pressed for new and controversial restrictions and fees for beach vehicle access along the Cooloola Coast, has consistently waged war on Gympie Regional Council and its predecessor, Cooloola Shire, over relatively minor issues associated with pumping ground water into the reticulated water supply systems of Tin Can Bay, Cooloola Cove and Rainbow Beach.
They have based these objections on the possible impact of ground water harvesting on the aquifer which the Cooloola Coast shares with the headwaters of the Noosa River.
The group, which saved the Cooloola National Park from development in the Bjelke-Petersen era, is now faced with potentially more serious environmental impacts from coal mining, only a virtual stone’s throw from the national park and the Noosa River.
The Gympie Times initially exposed the group’s involvement in secret advice to the government, suggesting Cooloola coastline controls and taxes on vehicle access, especially around its privately leased eco-restoration resort at Double Island Point, regarded as a jewel in the crown of the Cooloola National Park.
While NPA members and some Cooloola Coast conservationists tried to deny the accuracy of the article, it was supported by leaked Minutes from meetings of a State Government committee heavily stacked with NPA members.
The area is subject to international conservation agreements, including the Ramsar declared wetlands of the Straits and the Fraser Island World Heritage area, soon to be extended to the mainland, along with the United Nations based Biosphere covering much of the Wide Bay-Burnett region.
Further downstream from Wolvi, around Neerdie and Anderleigh, a second, larger coal prospect is set for geological assessment near the confluence of Coondoo, Sandy and Tinana Creeks.
Both areas are upstream from Teddington Weir, on Tinana Creek, the source of Maryborough’s urban drinking water and an important irrigation water source for district farmers.
The creek is also a major tributary of the Mary River, joining the main river near Maryborough and just upstream from its mouth at River Heads.
On the environmentally favourable side, one alternative view is that coal mining might not be any worse for the environment than the existing pine plantation monoculture, blamed by some fishing industry environmentalists for acid run-off into Snapper Creek and Tin Can Inlet.
Tiaro Coal says it plans a “stratigraphical drilling campaign” over 180sq km of the Wolvi area, on both sides of Coondoo Creek.
It also announced “geological assessment” over 399sq km in its “Gootchie” project, in the Anderleigh-Neerdie area.