Olive Downs coal mine

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This article is part of the Global Coal Mine Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.

Olive Downs North mine is a proposed coal mine, operated by Pembroke Resources, and producing 15 million tonnes per annum near Coppabella, Queensland, Australia.[1]


The coal mine is planned for the Issac Region in the state of Queensland, Australia.[1] The map below shows the exact location.[2]

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Coal Mine Background

Pembroke Resources states that the mine would produce "metallurgical coal, delivering high quality coking coal and PCI products to key markets including Japan, South Korea, China and India."[1] If the mine goes ahead coal will be transported to the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal.[1]

Olive Downs was approved by the state's independent coordinator-general on the 14 May 2019.[3]

The project was sold by Peabody Energy in 2016. The coking coal tenements were sold for $104 million and included royalty streams. Macarthur Coal the original company proposing to mine the area were bought by Peabody Energy in 2012 for close to $US5 billion.[4]

In its 2008 Annual Report, Macarthur Coal stated that "following granting of the ML [mining licence] it is anticipated that mining will begin in late 2009".[5]

As of September 2019 the mine is awaiting Federal Government permission, which is the last hurdle.[3]

In May 2020, the project obtained its approval from the Australian Federal Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, having obtained environmental authority from the Queensland Government in October 2019. With the approvals in place, it is cleared for the granting of mining leases and for construction to start potentially by the end of 2020. The federal approval comes with the condition that Pembroke Resources contribute AUS$100,000 annually for a decade to a new regional environmental fund and is required to maintain, restore, and preserve riparian koala and greater glider habitats. Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said Pembroke must implement a monitoring and management program to ensure that the project did not adversely affect the ecological values of groundwater-dependent ecosystems. According to Michael Kane, a community organiser from the Mackay Conservation Group, these AUS$100,000 annual contributions would be wholly inadequate to compensate for the mine's impacts: "This mine will destroy 6,000ha of koala habitat, it will have an impact over 41,000ha of potential agricultural land and it will affect 11 highly valued wetlands."[6]

Pembroke Resources also in May appointed ICA Partners as financial advisor for the project. The company expects to fund the AUS$450 million construction through equity and debt.[7]

In September 2020, Queensland's state government granted Pembroke Resources the necessary mining leases needed to commence construction.[8] With core construction work expected to start within months of the Queensland government approval, the company said it was still seeking to finalise financing for the project.[9]

Ecological and social impacts

If the mine goes ahead about 55 square kilometres of koala habitat will be cleared, with the Coordinator-General recommending an offset to protect the vulnerable species. The mine site, considered one of Australia's biggest, also includes the land where there are currently 11 highly significant wetlands. During the state's required public consultation process, not one environmental group made a submission.[3]

After 79 years the mine would be restored. In the plans three final voids, deep holes where coal and the rock lying over it has been removed, would be left. The voids would cover around 10 per cent of the project site.[3]

Lock the Gate campaigner Rick Humphries said: "When you have large unrehabilitated voids left at the end of a mine's life on flood plains the chances of flooding are very high risk.[3]

Mr Humphries said the approval contradicted changes to legislation in 2017 that sought to ban leaving voids on floodplains. The Coordinator-General's evaluation report said Olive Downs had "transitional provisions" because it had applied for an Environmental Authority prior to the legislative changes.[3]

In 2018 an agreement was made between the indigenous owners of the land and Pembroke Resources. The Indigenous Land Use Agreement over the land is subject to providing economic opportunities to the first nations people and the protection of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage.[10]

Barada Barna Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC holds native title on trust for the Barada Barna People. In 2016, the Barada Barna People achieved their determination of native title over some 3,233 square kilometres of land and waters south-west of Mackay and north-west of Rockhampton in the Bowen Basin.[10]

Project Details

  • Sponsor:
  • Parent Company: 100% owned by Pembroke Resources[1]
  • Location: The project is located 30 km south of Coppabella, Queensland, Australia.
  • GPS Coordinates: -22.245586, 148.388127 (exact)[2]
  • Status: Proposed
  • Production Capacity: 15 Mtpa[1]
  • Total Resource: 813Mt surface mine resources[1]
  • Mineable Reserves: 514Mt[1]
  • Coal type: Metallurgical[1]
  • Mine Size:
  • Mine Type: Surface mine
  • Start Year: 2020
  • Employment: 500-700 construction phase, 1,000 at full production[1]
  • Source of Financing:

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