A CHINESE mining company's application to explore for coal on the Darling Downs has been heralded as a challenge to the Queensland Government's commitment to protect the state's best agricultural land.
Friends of Felton spokesman Rob McCreath said the government would have to respond decisively to a submission by Shenhuo International Group for a coal exploration permit over an area of the Condamine River floodplain between Felton South and Tummaville.
He said the EPC 2706 application covered about 5000 hectares of deep rich alluvial black soil, including stretches of the Condamine River and Thanes Creek.
"The land in question is undeniably strategic cropping land, while the rivers and creeks are priceless waterways," he said.
"This is clearly an unsuitable place for coal mining."
The permit is by no means certain to be granted, according to a spokesman for the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.
"All applications for mining and petroleum exploration permits undergo a thorough assessment . . . before they are considered for grant," the spokesman said.
"A granted exploration permit does not entitle the holder to conduct commercial mining operations.
"In fact, very few granted exploration permits ever go on to become a mine.
"The Queensland Resources Council estimates only one in every 200 exploration permits go on to become a commercial mining project."
The statistics are little comfort to the Friends of Felton, who have demanded an immediate rejection to the request.
"Mines Minister Stirling Hinchliffe must show that the Queensland Government is genuine in its undertaking to protect the state's best cropping land by rejecting this permit application immediately," Mr McCreath said.
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