Cameby Downs expansion project

Project proposal

Syntech Resources Pty Ltd proposes to expand the Cameby Downs mine, located approximately 360 kilometres west, north-west of Brisbane and 16km north-east of Miles, in south-east Queensland.  The mine extracts thermal coal from the Juandah Formation in the Surat Basin. The Cameby Downs Coal Mine is currently on mining lease ML50233.

Original proposal to expand the mine

In 2009, Syntech Resources proposed to increase the rate of mining of run of mine (ROM) coal from 1.8 million tonnes a year (Mt/y) to 25Mt/y to produce 15Mt/y to 20Mt/y of product coal for export. The mine life was estimated at around 40 years, comprising a two year construction period and 35 to 40 years of production.

The original proposal included expansion of mining at the current Cameby Downs site north of the Warrego Highway, and new pits both north and south of the highway at Rywung approximately 10km east of the Cameby Downs mine.  Coal would have been transported from Rywung to Cameby Downs by truck or conveyor for processing.

A new rail line was proposed to link the Cameby Downs mine to the Surat Basin Rail at Wandoan, which would then allow the product coal to be transported to Gladstone for export. At the time of the original proposal, it was not known whether the new Cameby Downs to Wandoan rail line would be exclusively for the use of Syntech Resources or whether a multi-user line would be needed for other potential resource projects in the area.

The terms of reference for an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the original proposal were issued on 21 January 2010. On 11 April 2011, Syntech Resources requested an extension of the two year period in which the EIS should be submitted. On 9 May 2011, the department granted Syntech Resources a one year extension to the period in which the EIS should be submitted. The terms of reference for the EIS were considered to be still adequate notwithstanding the extension to the period, provided that the EIS addressed new requirements for social impacts, which might arise due to the mine expansion. It was also expected at the time that the EIS would provide an overview of the impacts and mitigation measures related to the rail connection between the Cameby Downs mine to the Surat Basin Rail at Wandoan.

On 5 August 2011, Yancoal Australia Ltd advised DERM that it had acquired Syntech Resources, including the Cameby Downs Mine.

Revised proposal to expand the mine

Since acquiring the Cameby Downs Mine, Yancoal has revised the mine plan. The current proposal is a much reduced version of the original.  Mining would not take place for the foreseeable future at Rywung, either north or south of the Warrego Highway. Mining at Cameby Downs would be limited to a maximum of 14Mt/y ROM coal, which would be processed to 8 Mt/y of product coal. However, due to current port and rail restrictions, mining at that rate would be dependent on sufficient port and rail capacity being available, either via Brisbane, or at the port of Gladstone via new rail links yet to be constructed. Until such time as additional port and rail capacity is available, mining is expected to proceed at a rate of up to 3 Mt/y of product coal, transported by rail to the Port of Brisbane for export.

The project site has an area of approximately 7911 ha. The tenements that would be affected by the project are: ML50233; and EPCs 732, 813 and 1165.

Yancoal has also now advised the department that the rail connection to Wandoan will be a multi-user facility proposed and constructed by a joint venture of resource companies; and furthermore that the alignment of the rail connection is not yet known. Consequently, it is not now feasible for the EIS for the Cameby Downs Mine to address the impacts of the construction or operation of the rail connection.  Instead, a separate, detailed environmental impact assessment process for the rail connection is expected to be started in the near future.

Yancoal has requested a further extension until 31 March 2014 to the period in which the EIS should be submitted. The reason for the extension is so that Yancoal can ensure the EIS adequately addresses the newly revised mining proposal. The department has held discussions with the proponent, and, in addition to the terms of reference issued in 2010, has provided written advice on matters that should be addressed in the EIS so that it may meet current expectations. The department is satisfied the proponent has been adequately briefed on the information requirements for the development of an adequate EIS for the current proposal, and has granted the extension.

In summary, the major elements of the revised current project are as follows:

  • Open cut mining of the Cameby Downs coal resource would be located within the existing Cameby Downs mining lease and on additional, adjoining mining lease areas.
  • Mined coal would be processed at the Cameby Downs Coal Handling and Preparation Plant, including crushing, screening and washing, with waste products deposited in a rejects dam.
  • There would be out-of-pit spoil dumps and in-pit spoil disposal of waste rock and processing waste at the Cameby Downs site.
  • There would be a rail loading facility at the Cameby Downs Mine.
  • Coal would initially be transported via rail to the port of Brisbane for export.

The rate of mining will be determined by the availability of sufficient rail and port capacity, with product coal in the medium to long term being transported by rail, either to the port of Brisbane or via new, yet to be built, rail infrastructure to the port of Gladstone. It is currently proposed that open cut mining would use excavators, shovels and trucks. However, there is the possibility that draglines and/or conveyor systems could be used for overburden removal if they prove to be technically and economically viable.

Commonwealth assessment process

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

The project was a controlled action under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The State’s EIS process had been accredited for the assessment under Part 8 of the EPBC Act in accordance with the Bilateral Agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Queensland (2004). The controlling provisions were sections 18 and 18A (Listed threatened species and communities). However, on 8 October 2013, the proponent withdrew the referral for the project. Consequently, the state’s EIS process no longer needed to assess matters of national environmental significance.

Final terms of reference

In accordance with section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1994, the department finalised the terms of reference (TOR) for carrying out an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposal.

Yancoal had until 31 March 2014 to submit the EIS to the department for assessment. However, the EIS was not submitted by that date. Consequently, the final terms of reference for the EIS have ceased to have effect, and should the proponent wish to continue with the EIS process, it would be necessary to comply again with Chapter 3, Part1, Division 2, of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 before the EIS may be submitted.

End of the EIS process

Yancoal decided not to pursue the proposed increase of the rate of mining at Cameby Downs. Instead, they decided to keep the production of coal at the existing rate, but expand the area that can be mined into four new mining leases (50258, 50259, 50260, and 50269). At the current rate of mining, the new leases would allow the mine to operate until 2178. Accordingly, in March 2015, Syntech Resources (a subsidiary of Yancoal) submitted an application to amend the existing environmental authority for the mine to cover the new leases. The department decided the potential impacts of the amendment application would be assessed by the process detailed in Chapter 5 of the Environmental Protection Act 1994. That decision effectively ends assessment of the project by the EIS process under Chapter 3 of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

Further information

Publicly available documents:

For further information about the EIS process for the Cameby Downs Expansion Project please contact the EIS Co-ordinator.

Available from the library catalogue

The document referred to on this page is available from the department’s online library catalogue.