AN INDUSTRY heavyweight is "strongly encouraging" a mining giant to look to Gladstone for workers to build a proposed new mega-mine.
Baralaba Coal Company has revealed its plans to make Baralaba a central Queensland mining hub by building a huge new mine, with 150 workers needed during construction, and another 400 once its fully operational.
Gladstone Industry Leadership Group (GILG) Chief Executive Officer Patrick Hastings said whether the project means jobs for Gladstone would boil down to if Baralaba were after drive-in-drive-out (DIDO) workers or fly-in-fly-out workers to fill skill shortages in its workforce.
Baralaba said in the statement it will prioritise jobs for the immediate local area, including the Banana Shire and the Central Highlands Shire.
But at just 192km up the road, Mr Hastings said Gladstone is perfectly situated to supply a skilled workforce.
"It comes down to the appetite of whether they're looking for drive-in-drive-out or fly-in-fly-out workers," Mr Hastings said.
"(But) given the skills that exist inside Gladstone, I would encourage them to look to here. It's a highly skilled workforce, and it's highly suited to the construction side of the mine."
Mr Hastings also said there could be new opportunities for Gladstone suppliers.
"There should be an opportunity for us to be involved in the supply change," he said.
"I'd be encouraging them to be looking at Gladstone businesses. We have an extremely good supply chain. It's well developed."
"We are set up to deal with these sorts of endeavours."
Mr Hastings, who has just established the Gladstone Sustainable Industry Task Force with four other Gladstone business leaders, a lobby group that hopes to lure investment in the region, stressed the project could be a while away.
"(The proposed start date of) 2019 is a very healthy target," he said. "(But) we need to be aware that there will be a lot of regulatory stages before construction occurs."
Wonbindi Coal Pty Limited, a subsidiary of which Baralaba own an 80% share, previously submitted a draft terms of reference for an environmental impact statement (EIS) to the Department of Environment of Heritage Protection (EHP), which was approved in April of 2013.
But the terms of reference expired two years later as an EIS was not submitted.
Mr Hastings believes Baralaba sidelined the project as coal prices tumbled in the years leading up to its deadline for the EIS.
But surging coal prices has led the company to restart the project.
"The coal price has started to trend upward. That would be why they've picked it up," he said.
"As the coal price rises they will get a better return on investment. In 2013, we saw a downward trend in coal.
"You wouldn't take the investment decision if you didn't think prices would be sustainable for the proposed lifespan of the mine."
Baralaba has asked for approval to mine six million tonnes per annum of thermal coal over a life of 23-40 years.
The surge in coal prices saw Queensland's coal export industry grow 19.2% to $21.058 billion in the year to January.
Construction of the Baralaba South Project is expected to begin in 2019, and production is expected to begin 6-12 months later, according to Baralaba's Initial Advice Statement. The company is already negotiating access to Gladstone's port and use of rail lines to export coal to international markets from the project.
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