Aaron Kerle is the director of Ipswich Earthmoving Equipment and Haenke No 3. Picture: Cordell Richardson
Aaron Kerle is the director of Ipswich Earthmoving Equipment and Haenke No 3. Picture: Cordell Richardson

Efforts to restart coal mining in Ipswich hit a brick wall

EFFORTS to restart a coal mining operation in Ipswich have hit a brick wall but the proponent believes it is the best option to rehabilitate a 1000ha site that could otherwise be taken over by waste companies.

Aaron Kerle, who is the director of Ipswich Earthmoving Equipment and Haenke No 3, is leading the charge for the joint venture to resume mining in New Chum and Swanbank.

It would initially involve mining a 40ha area off Redbank Plains Rd with the long term vision involving extracting up to 100,000 tonnes of coal a year and rehabilitating a total area of 1000ha.

The Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy cancelled the mining lease for the site in May 2018 due to regulatory noncompliance.

It was held by Oxley Plant Sales Pty Ltd.

"The legislation currently prohibits any new coal mining activities happening with Ipswich," Mr Kerle said.

"Our argument is that this is not a new coal mining activity. Up to May 2, 2018 the area that we were seeking was approved for coal mining.

"It's an old mine and it should be exempt from the rules put in place.

"It would appear we have to have a change of the rules to allow this alternative plan to get off the ground."

Mr Kerle said the sale of coal would be for domestic consumers only and it could save money on transportation costs for local companies in particularly difficult economic times.

"These areas have got to be rehabilitated and if you take away the ability to do that by the means of coal and the income that that generates then you've got to rely on some other form," he said.

Efforts to restart mining has hit a brick wall. Picture: Cordell Richardson
Efforts to restart mining has hit a brick wall. Picture: Cordell Richardson

"At this stage of the game, the only other financially viable option is the waste industry and filling the holes up with rubbish."

He said the incident in which an SES volunteer fell down an abandoned mine shaft in Collingwood Park this week showed the importance of rehabilitation.

"These are very shallow underground mines," he said.

"You can't do anything with it."

Ipswich City Council's development planning manager Brett Davey said council officers had been briefed on the project but did not support it to date.

The State Government declared a restriction area under the Mineral Resources Act 1989 to stop new mining activity starting in proximity to planned or existing residential areas.

Restrictions are in place that prevent any new mining tenure being granted in the Ipswich local government area, other than for some low-level exploration activities.

"In order to commence mining in Swanbank or New Chum legislation change would be required to remove the restriction area and the developer would need to progress an application process under the Mineral Resources Act 1989," Mr Davey said.

"There are significant impacts associated with the operation of mining activity, particularly close to residential areas.

"It is unclear at this stage how those risks can be mitigated or avoided."

Mr Davey said the regulation of these activities, including the initial approval process and ongoing compliance, was the responsibility of the State Government.

Shadow Minister for Mines Dale Last urged the council to consider the project further.

"In the wake of the pandemic and the need for economic recovery, I would think that Ipswich City Council should be looking at this project to assess whether it is practical," he said.

"We need to ensure we find a balance between residential and resource interests and the first step in that process lays at the feet of local government."