South Galilee Coal Project

The South Galilee Coal Project (SGCP) is a proposed open-cut and underground mining operation approximately 12 km south-west of Alpha township and 170 km west of Emerald (Figure 12). It is the southern-most and smallest of the six major coal projects for which development plans are currently well advanced, along the central-eastern boundary of the Galilee Basin. The SGCP is a joint venture initiative between AMCI Pty Ltd (Alpha) and Alpha Coal Pty Ltd (Alpha Coal), a subsidiary of Bandanna Energy Ltd. Alpha Coal Management Pty Ltd (Alpha Coal Management) are the designated manager of, and agent for, the South Galilee Coal Project joint venture. The coal resource at South Galilee has been defined through various exploration programmes undertaken on two coal exploration tenements held by Alpha Coal, namely EPC 1049 and EPC 1180. The development of the mine-site is expected to occur on mining lease application (MLA) 70453. Estimated capital expenditure for the SGCP is $4.2 billion (Alpha Coal, 2012).

If approved, the SGCP is expected to have a mine life of 33 years and may produce over 450 Mt of run of mine (ROM) coal (Alpha Coal Management, 2014). This could yield approximately 400 Mt of product coal over the life of operations, which would likely be exported to international thermal coal markets (Alpha Coal, 2012). Further exploration being undertaken within the project area may delineate new resources that could be added to the resource base in the future, thereby extending the operational life of the mine.

Coal resources targeted for possible extraction at the SGCP are hosted in the Late Permian Bandanna Formation. The main coal seams are designated D1 and D2, and contain a total resource of over 1.1 Gt (Table 10), reported in accordance with the JORC Code. The seams consist of three plies with a variable thickness between 0.5 and 4.5 m, and have ash content from 7.5 to 41% (Alpha Coal, 2012). The coal is high volatile sub-bituminous and generally has a dull appearance, although bright banding is relatively common.

Similar to other coal deposits in this part of the Galilee Basin, the coal-bearing Permian strata at SGCP are overlain by unconsolidated Cenozoic sediments such as sand, gravel and silt. These vary from 3 to 52 m thick across MLA 70453, and have a mean thickness of 21 m (Alpha Coal, 2012). Consequently, a significant volume of Cenozoic overburden would have to be removed from proposed open-cut mine areas before the target coal seams could be extracted. There are also overlying Triassic rocks in the western part of the SGCP, where higher land surface elevation occurs in the area of the Great Dividing Range. However, if the SGCP is approved, these rocks would not need to be removed as they do not occur in the open-cut mining area.

Table 10 Coal resource in D coal seam at South Galilee Coal Project

Coal seam

Measured resource

Indicated resource

Inferred resource



50.4 Mt

105.8 Mt

555 Mt

711.2 Mt


116.3 Mt

100.5 Mt

251 Mt

467.8 Mt


166.7 Mt

206.3 Mt

806 Mt

1,179.0 Mt

Source data: Alpha Coal (2012). Resources have been estimated by a Competent Person as defined in the JORC Code.

In their initial EIS submission (October 2012) the SGCP proponents indicated that mining would take place in three main stages using a combination of open-cut and underground methods (Alpha Coal, 2012). However, following EIS lodgement, the proponents recognised that there was considerable uncertainty of timing in the delivery of external (third-party) infrastructure (such as power, water and transport networks), which the SGCP development depended upon (Alpha Coal Management, 2014). Consequently, a revised approach was conceived to overcome this timing uncertainty, with the addition of a stand-alone initial development stage termed the Epsilon Mine (which is intended to precede the main mine development stages one to three as outlined in the EIS). Epsilon is proposed as a small-scale open-cut mine, sited within part of the larger pit area described in the EIS. If approved, it will target good quality coal with a low stripping ratio, identified by the proponents as a ‘sweet spot’ in the overall coal resource (Alpha Coal Management, 2014).

The components of the proposed Epsilon Mine at SGCP are outlined in the Additional Environmental Impact Statement (AEIS) submitted in early 2014 (Alpha Coal Management, 2014). The main features proposed for Epsilon are:

  • truck and shovel open-cut mining operations capable of supporting 3 Mt/year for 13 years of operation
  • no external water supply will be required, as a density separation process (dry process) is proposed to beneficiate the raw coal on-site. Existing surface water storages coupled with proposed new groundwater sources are expected to provide sufficient water supply
  • on-site power supply to be used
  • coal to be transported to the existing port facility at Gladstone, using existing railway networks, such as the QR railway between Alpha and Emerald, and the Aurizon Blackwater railway onto Gladstone port
  • mine decommissioning to occur during operation of Stage 1 of the SGCP.

The overall impacts of the revised Epsilon stage for the SGCP are that there will be a longer ramp up period to the full mine production schedule (as proposed in the EIS). This will reduce the areal extent of mining and also help mitigate some environmental impacts, such as reducing disturbance of creek beds within the mining lease (Alpha Coal Management, 2014).

Construction of the mine and associated infrastructure may commence following granting of all required environmental approvals and awarding of the mining lease. However, as of August 2014, the actual timing of construction is unknown. Initial mining operations may be expected to commence after about two years of construction activity, and could progressively ramp-up over the subsequent construction stages to the peak production capacity of about 20 Mt/year expected in 2028 and 2029 (Alpha Coal Management, 2014). According to the development schedule in the AEIS, annual production rates after 2030 are expected to stabilise at around 17 Mt/year.

The original three stage development sequence (as per the EIS) was planned over the initial ten years of construction and mining operations (Table 11). However, many initial construction activities proposed for Stage 1 are expected to now begin during the Epsilon development phase, including some of the major civil and capital works components including some aspects of mine-site infrastructure (e.g. coal handling and preparation plant, CHPP), the workers accommodation camp (SGCP proposes a fly-in/fly-out workforce via the Alpha airport), and the rail spur to link to the existing east to west railway line (Alpha Coal Management, 2014). The subsequent stages of construction would mainly focus on extending the open-cut mining area and developing the underground operations, as well as additional infrastructure to support the full-scale operations.

Table 11 Planned stages in development of South Galilee Coal Project

Initial stage – Epsilon Mine

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Approximate provisional start date for mining





Product coal tonnage

3 Mt/year

Up to 5 Mt/year

Up to 10 Mt/year

Up to 20 Mt/year

Mining method

Open-cut mine

Open-cut mine

Open-cut and #1 longwall underground mine

Open-cut and #1 and #2 longwall underground mine

Source data: Alpha Coal (2012) and Alpha Coal Management (2014). The start date for each stage is preceded by approximately two years of construction activities. The schedule presented here is based on the anticipated maximum level of production, and the actual schedule that occurs will be influenced by other factors such as final mine planning and design, geological knowledge, economic conditions and access to third-party infrastructure.

Four open-cut mining pits are eventually planned for development at SGCP, with a combined footprint of about 14 km along strike. According to Alpha Coal (2012), open-cut mining operations (if approved) will involve several major activities:

  • clearing – prior to mining, vegetation would have to be cleared and topsoil removed and stockpiled for later rehabilitation use
  • drilling and blasting – some drilling and blasting of overburden material may be required prior to excavation, especially in the lower part of the Permian strata which are considered overburden (above the top mineable coal seams)
  • overburden removal – initial excavation of the box cut to allow dragline access may use a power shovel. The dragline would then be mainly used to dig overburden and dump it to the spoil pile
  • overburden and interburden placement – some initial waste rock may be used to build flood prevention barriers, with the remainder placed in waste rock heaps. The development proposal indicates that most of the overburden excavated by dragline would be placed in spoil piles in previously dug mining strips. Some waste rock with potential to generate acid forming material may require selective handling
  • coal mining – a fleet of shovels and haul trucks is proposed to mine and transport the coal to the ROM prior to processing at the CHPP. If approved, mining would be done using conventional strip mining techniques. Multiple mining areas are planned for concurrent operations in both D1 and D2 coal seams.

Underground mining operations using the longwall method may focus on deeper seams buried down-dip to the west of the open-cut operations. If approved, the underground operations are expected to commence during Stage 2 of the mine development. Access to underground operations may occur from the southern-most open-cut via a box cut. Operations initially targeting the D1 coal seam may be followed by mining of the D2 seam (Alpha Coal, 2012). Seven underground headings have been designed to access the D1 seam from the box cut. The longwall mining panels are designed to be 350 m wide and up to 5000 m long, with a minimum depth below surface of 140 m (Alpha Coal, 2012). As the longwall progresses, a series of pillars would be left in-place to support the overlying strata and protect personnel, machinery and roadways.

The SGCP development plan indicates that two run of mine (ROM) coal heaps would be used to dump coal mined from the open-cuts (stages one to three). There may also be a separate underground ROM coal dump in the box cut area. Conveyors are planned to transport coal from the ROM heaps to the sizing facilities, in preparation for delivery to the raw coal pile near the CHPP. The CHPP is designed to operate on a 24/7 schedule, with a feed capacity of 2000 tonnes of coal per hour. There may be four product coal stockpiles linked by conveyor to the train load-out facility for proposed transport to Abbott Point coal terminal.

Exploration work in the SGCP area has shown no major indications of CSG in the target seams of the Bandanna Formation (Alpha Coal, 2012). This suggests that underground mine ventilation would be adequately handled by the initial combination of underground roadways and mining drifts into each seam, followed by later installation of dual return shafts (each six m wide). There may be multiple ventilation fans installed to provide the required level of mine flow ventilation.

In late 2012 then EIS for the SGCP (Alpha Coal, 2012) was prepared for public consultation and submitted for assessment to the office of the Queensland Coordinator-General. Additional information about the project was subsequently requested by the Coordinator-General, and the AEIS was submitted by the proponent in early 2014. The Coordinator-General’s evaluation stage commenced for the SGCP on 1 July 2014. The SGCP has also been referred for approval to the Australian Government, and was declared a ‘controlled action’ under the EPBC Act in June 2010. Consequently, the SGCP has yet to be approved.

Despite the addition of the initial Epsilon mine stage, the full-scale development of the SGCP will ultimately depend upon access to external (third-party) infrastructure currently planned for the wider Galilee development region. In particular, access to the proposed new railway linking the south Galilee mining region to Abbott Point, the Galilee Basin Transmission Project (proposed by Powerlink Queensland), and secured port loading capacity at the expanded Abbott Point coal terminal are integral to the successful long-term development of the SGCP (Alpha Coal, 2012).

Last updated:
3 January 2019
Thumbnail of the Galilee subregion

Product Finalisation date