Exploratory coal drilling 'likely' to take two years

THE head of a company about to start coal exploration drilling in the Somerset region has sought to allay fears about the prospect of mining.

Coalbank has been given the go-ahead to drill on five sites between Esk and Toogoolawah.

The company applied for a coal exploration permit in 2011 and was granted it on May 1 last year.

Coalbank chief executive Bruce Patrick said there was nothing to fear from the drilling, even though it's in the Wivenhoe Dam catchment.

"I'd simply say most of the landholders in the area have done exactly the same type of drilling to put water bores down because it's exactly the same process that coal exploration companies use, only there's a geologist there looking at the rocks that come out, rather than the amount of water that comes out," Mr Patrick said.

"At the exploration stage, there's nothing wildly different from what happens on a normal farm around the place."

He said it was also important to stress Coalbank's permit was for coal, not coal seam gas.

"It's an important distinction because people think fracking and all these things that have got nothing at all to do with this technically," he said. "In fact it's under a different legislation; it's a petroleum permit not a coal permit. "We couldn't even go and explore for it because it's not covered under our permit."

Given the process that had to be followed it would be more than a year before anything happened, even if the drilling found coal.

"What happens in exploration is you start drilling some holes and then you evaluate the data and you either move to another place or you do more work in the same area," he said. "I would expect that to be a couple of years process. That's assuming something comes up that keeps you drilling in the first place. "It'd be an absolute minimum of 12 months and more likely two years before you'd form a view that you've got something worth looking at."


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