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The Queensland government has approved two steelmaking coal mines in Central Queensland.

Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the approval of privately held Futura Resource’s Fairhill and Wilton projects near Emerald was a big boost for the regional workforce and economy, and would create up to 130 regional jobs.

“This investment is a strong vote of confidence in the Queensland resources sector and our state’s large deposits of high-quality steelmaking coal. These projects are in the heart of the Bowen basin and will benefit from the existing infrastructure in place from nearby mines.

“At their peak, these two mines will produce more than three-million tonnes per year of steelmaking coal, which will be processed then transported by rail to the Port of Gladstone and exported to key international markets. This means from Emerald to Gladstone, regional communities will benefit from job opportunities and the economic flow-on effects of these projects.”

The Wilton and Fairhill projects are located adjacent to one another about 50 km northeast of Emerald, with coal to be processed using existing infrastructure at the nearby Gregory-Crinum mine. The two projects host a global resource of 2.6-billion tonnes, including over 700-million tonnes less than 100 m from depth.

Construction works are set to begin in early 2023, with coal production expected to begin within six months. Both mines have an initial 10-year proposed lifespan but could be expanded to more than 20 years with continued exploration.

Futura Resources CEO Ben Dunlop said coal continued to play a big role in Australia’s and the world’s steelmaking and energy mix.

“We see ourselves as a sustainable, low environmental footprint producer using nearby existing infrastructure, including coal processing facilities which will be 50% powered by renewable energy by the end of 2023.

“We believe these projects are well positioned to meet future market demand for high quality steelmaking coal and we will be supporting the people and communities of Central Queensland by using local suppliers and contractors where possible.

“One of the big upsides of advancing mining projects in Queensland is that we have very well-regulated safety standards, with mines that are well managed, progressively rehabilitated and environmentally sound.”

Stewart said recent analysis by Queensland Treasury showed steelmaking coal will remain an essential international export commodity for the state until at least 2050.

“Treasury forecasts show Queensland will likely remain the world’s largest seaborne exporter of steelmaking coal for many decades to come,” he said.  

“Our state is blessed with the world’s highest quality steelmaking coal and a highly skilled workforce, which is why we continue to attract investment from companies like Futura. The government continues to back our resources industry, which directly supports about 75 000 good jobs across the state, particularly in our regions.”