Coal now not enough to supply hospitals and food production

THE threatened scaling down of a Queensland coal mine highlights the state's extraordinary reliance on the fossil fuel as more than two dozen coal customers including abattoirs, a cannery and even Brisbane's own Mater Hospital are warned their supply might soon dry up.

The New Acland Coal Mine on the Darling Downs which is still trying to secure its stage three approval supplies around 26 businesses with thousands of tonnes of coal each year.

While Queenslanders see coal primarily as an export, it is also needed for hospital incinerators to dispose waste, to heat abattoirs boilers and provide energy for milk producers, brickworks and food processors.

"Despite long and protracted efforts to obtain key approvals for stage three, we are yet to be granted mining leases and the associated water licence," Mr O'Dwyer said.

"We require these approvals before September 1 otherwise redundancies will take effect by late October.''

The New Acland Coal Mine is awaiting stage three approvals. Picture: Adam Head
The New Acland Coal Mine is awaiting stage three approvals. Picture: Adam Head

Near Beaudesert AJ Bush and Sons manager David Kassulke says his rendering plant, which won a 2013 Premier's sustainability award, takes 1000 tonnes of Acland coal a month.

The coal fuels boilers helping turn non-meat products from abattoirs into anything from blood and bone for the garden to dry cat food.

Ms Kassulke, who notes emissions from the decomposition of the products would be seven fold if his plant did not process them, said his environmentally aware businesses was handling around four million kilograms of animal by-products each week, and coal was essential to the process.

"Regrettably, we will have to try and source coal from somewhere else if they can no longer supply it.''

ALS Limited which employ around 15000 people world wide and tests coal quality at Acland say the failure to secure the stage three approval will cost several on-site testing jobs as well as ten more redundancies at ALS's Richlands laboratory.

General manager at ALS Coal Services Jason Hubbard said ALS also certified the Acland coal cargoes leaving Brisbane port export markets, and was becoming deeply concerned about possible job loss for employees.

State Warrego MP Ann Leahy. Picture: Adam Head
State Warrego MP Ann Leahy. Picture: Adam Head

Ann Leahy, the state member for Warrego, who says the LNP Opposition has been pressuring the Government over the stage three approval in parliament, is concerned the Oakey Abattoir which relies on Acland coal will face extra cost imposts if it has to seek coal elsewhere.

"Oakey takes in a lot of cattle from my electorate so what the alternatives are if the coal is no longer available have become a real concern out here.''

The office of the Queensland Health Minister says the energy requirement of the Mater Hospital are a matter for hospital management, while the hospital itself says coal use is actually under review.

The Mater Hospital said it was committed to a program of environmental sustainability and continued to review coal usage for important clinical and non-clinical services at its South Brisbane campus.

"We are working with various government and non-government agencies to identify opportunities for a sustainable solution as part of our Master Planning process,'' the hospital said in a statement.

The Acland Mine's stage three has been the subject of some fierce opposition from environmentalists but earlier this year it won environmental approval.

But it still needs to secure mining leases and the water licence if it is to survive.

Queensland Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Anthony Lynham has said the State Government would continue to work with mine owner New Hope towards the approvals.