Exploration process under review

AN application for coal exploration on the Southern Downs may not be approved.

Mining Minister Stirling Hinchliffe has committed to reviewing an application for mining exploration in the Warwick area, which was submitted in 2008.

Mr Hinchliffe made the commitment during a meeting with Darling Downs residents on June 22.

He said the entire exploration process was under review which would examine the appropriateness of exploration near heavily populated urban areas.

“Mining and agriculture have existed side-by-side for many years on the Darling Downs,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

“Circumstances in many communities have changed and that’s why we’re reviewing the appropriateness of the exploration process.

“There is one application for coal exploration in the Warwick area and I have ordered senior mines staff to advise if this is appropriate.

“There is absolutely no guarantee it will receive approval.”

Mr Hinchliffe said if the application was approved, it would be subject to strict conditions.

“Laws already exclude exploration near people’s homes, churches, sporting or community facilities, bores, dams, wells and permanent stockyards,” he said. “And we do not permit undermining in residential areas.

“The reality is that less than 1% of land explored for mining has a mining lease placed over it.

“Even if exploration reveals that a commercially viable operation may be possible, there are still a number of boxes that a company must tick before operations can start.

“There are things like environmental impact statements, co-ordinator general approval and Commonwealth approval that may come into play.”

The issue was raised at last week’s Southern Downs Regional Council meeting where Cr Cameron Gow asked what could be done to stop the application.

Economic development officer John Randall has been investigating the issue and said he found it strange local authorities aren’t informed of exploration applications.

Last month Mr Hinchliffe refused an application to explore in Toowoomba because of the urban impact.

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