1.2.3 Proposals and exploration


In the Central West subregion, there are two mine plans and one potential exploration project, which are outlined below.

Ulan Coal Mines Limited (UCML) is owned by Glencore plc and the mining area overlies parts of several surface water catchments (detailed in Ulan Coal, 2012, p. 37). UCML has recently extended its mining activities within this complex as part of a 21-year conceptual development plan for the Ulan Mine Complex. Multiple mining operations exist within the site and at present, Ulan No.3 is planned to progress northwards for up to 18 years (NSW Department of Planning, 2010, p. 9). In addition to mining leases, Glencore owns Exploration Licences (ELs) 5573 and 7542 which are situated at Ulan No. 3 underground and Ulan West respectively.

The Cobbora Coal Project is a proposed open-cut coal mine that will supply thermal coal to NSW power stations in the Upper Hunter Valley and the Central Coast, in addition to coal being sold on the open market. The project application area covers about 27,400 ha (which was mostly previously cleared for agriculture) of which a potential disturbance area of up to 4,700 ha is expected (EMGA Mitchell McLennan, 2012, p. ES.5–6). Although it is not clear when construction is likely to commence, the mine is expected to take 2.5 years to construct and the projected life of the mine, following construction, is 21 years (EMGA Mitchell McLennan, 2012, p. ES.1, ES.6). The mine will produce up to 12 Mt/year of product coal with ash content varying between 25 and 45%. Coal blending will be performed to achieve suitable qualities for end users (EMGA Mitchell McLennan, 2012, p. 35).

Phoenix Vision Coal Pty Ltd own EL 7115 in the subregion (Southern Cross Exploration N.L., 2012, p. 4) but activities and intentions for this EL are presently unclear.

Exploration for coal seam gas (CSG) has predominantly occurred in the eastern part of the Central West subregion focusing on the geological Gunnedah Basin. Target coals are the Late Permian aged coals of the Black Jack Group, with the primary target the Hoskissons Coal. The Early Permian Maules Creek Formation is either not present in the eastern part of the Central West subregion or only poorly developed. Results from exploration core wells indicate that the explored area is not currently prospective for commercial CSG. A single exploration well has been drilled to assess the CSG potential of the Cretaceous Rolling Downs Group of the southern geological Surat Basin. The gas content of the coals was not measured.

Currently, Santos Ltd is the only holder of CSG exploration licences in the Central West subregion after acquiring Eastern Star Gas Limited in 2011.

Further CSG exploration and commercialisation in the Central West subregion needs to be consistent with NSW coal seam gas regulations and CSG exclusion zones that prohibit new CSG exploration and development in and around (within a 2 km buffer) existing residential areas.

Last updated:
5 January 2018