Anna Bligh scraps Whitsunday shale oil proposal
Article from: Sunday Mail
August 24, 2008 12:00am
IN A victory for conservationists, the Bligh Government has scrapped a proposed $14b shale oil mining operation in the Whitsundays.
The Government also signalled that other big developments will be canned if they threaten Queensland's pristine environment. Premier Anna Bligh will today announce a 20-year moratorium on all mining activities and exploration over the McFarlane deposit, 15km south of Proserpine.
Conservationists feared the project would harm the Great Barrier Reef and local tourism, and the health of people who lived and farmed nearby.
But Queensland Energy Resources, the company investigating a plan to mine up to 1.6 million barrels of oil from the deposit, said it would have created 3000 permanent jobs, 3000 more in the construction phase, and produced oil for Australia for the next 40 years.
Ms Bligh said she would not allow the environment to be put at risk while the technology for extraction of the controversial resource was still not proven.
"Our environment must come first," Ms Bligh told The Sunday Mail yesterday.
The announcement will immediately stop plans to dig up about 400,000 tonnes of rock for resource testing of the deposit.
Ms Bligh said only one lease to mine oil shale existed, in Gladstone, and legislation would be passed so no new shale oil mines were permitted anywhere in Queensland.
"The Government will devote the next two years to researching whether oil shale deposits can be used in an environmentally acceptable way," Ms Bligh said.
Oil shale is sedimentary rock which is mined using open-cut technology. It contains kerogen, a bituminous material which is released when heated to extremely high temperatures of about 350C.
Further stages of processing produce something similar to crude oil, which can be refined to diesel.
More than 92 per cent of Australia's oil shale deposits are in Queensland – between Bundaberg and Proserpine – and QER owns the mining rights to two-thirds of it, worth about 15.8 billion barrels.
Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said small-scale demonstration plants using shale oil from the Stuart resource at Gladstone would still be allowed, but only if companies got a licence and their technology passed strict environmental standards.