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Bligh says no to north Qld shale project
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|by Fairfax - Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Ms Bligh cited the need to put the environment first as she quashed plans to start bulk sampling and exploration of the McFarlane deposit, 15km south of Proserpine.
The decision sparked a war of words between the mining lobby and Greenpeace, who campaigned against the development.
Ms Bligh said she would not allow the environment to be put at risk while the technology for extraction of the resource was still not proven.
"Our environment must come first," the Premier said.
"That's why we are putting a 20-year moratorium on all mining activities, bulk sampling and exploration over the McFarlane deposit in the Whitsunday region."
Conservationists feared the project could affect tourism in the Whitsundays region, pollute the Great Barrier Reef and Goorganga wetlands, pose risks to health and disrupt local farming operations.
On Friday local state MP, Member for Whitsunday Jan Jarratt, publicly opposed the development.
Mining would not have occurred for several years, if approved.
Shale oil is extracted from sedimentary rocks that contain solid combustible organic matter called kerogen. Under a heating process, the kerogen can be decomposed to release hydrocarbons that can be captured to produce synthetic crude oil and combustible gas.
Ms Bligh said the government would devote the next two years to researching whether shale oil deposits can be used in an environmentally acceptable way.
In the meantime no new shale oil mines will be permitted anywhere in the state.
Queensland has approximately 90 per cent of Australia's known shale oil reserves and the vast bulk are located between Bundaberg and Proserpine.
Shale oil is mined using open cut technology with high energy and water needs as well as potentially significant impacts on local habitats and ecosystems through emissions and waste water, the state government said.
There is an existing lease to mine shale oil in Gladstone in central Queensland. Those rights would remain in effect, said Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson.
The Premier said the decision was effective immediately and would be legislated in the coming months.
Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive, Michael Roche, said the decision would further erode Queensland's standing as a destination for exploration investment following the 2007 prohibition on the mining and export of uranium.
"The government's oft-promoted support for the industries generating Queensland's wealth seems to have become hostage to the guerrilla tactics of fringe groups like Greenpeace," Mr Roche said.
"What next Greenpeace resource sector target will have the Queensland government folding under a tiny bit of pressure?"
Greenpeace welcomed the decision.
"This proposal should never have been given serious consideration," Greenpeace climate campaigner John Hepburn said.
"Ms Bligh has made the right decision to prevent any new shale oil projects from taking place in the state, but it is an easy decision - the next step is to announce a stop the expansion of the coal industry in Queensland," Mr Hepburn said.
"Queensland Energy Resource's proposal came at a time when the world's scientists are warning that we have as little as 10 years to radically reduce greenhouse pollution if we are to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change."
"I don't envy Ms Bligh, given the economic power of the Greenhouse Mafia, but sometime soon she is going to have to make the tough decision to put the future of the state ahead of the vested interests of the coal lobby."
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