Central Queensland covers the regional centres of Rockhampton, Mackay, Emerald and Moranbah, extending from the Great Barrier Reef across the Great Dividing Range west to the Desert Uplands bioregion. From the ocean to the outback, it is a classic Australian landscape, which supports a strong beef industry based on vast inland cattle stations, major irrigation centres growing orchards and crops, and a diverse, internationally recognised tourism industry. Much of central Queensland is within the Brigalow Belt Bioregion, an area that has been recognised as a national biodiversity hotspot which contains some of the most threatened wildlife in the world.
Central Queensland is divided into two geological basins - the Bowen Basin to the east and the Galilee Basin to the west. The Bowen Basin currently has at least 44 operating coal mines, with numerous new mines and expansions proposed or underway. Coal mining has changed the Bowen Basin forever - massive open-cut pits scar the landscape, land has slumped and subsided as a result of underground mining, and successful rehabilitation is largely non-existent. A vast area stretching more than 300km from Collinsville in the north to Moura in the south has been transformed into a heavy industrial area. Many farmers have been forced off their land and fine productive country permanently destroyed in the rush for quick dollars from coal exports. Bushland has been cleared and important wildlife habitats destroyed. The two major rivers systems of the region, the Dawson and the Fitzroy have been polluted and precious underground aquifers are pumped dry to to get at the coal.
The Galilee Basin, on the other hand, is as yet untouched by coal mining. Stretching from Alpha and Jericho in the south, towards Hughenden in the north, it is a landscape still dominated by open grassy eucalypt woodlands and cattle stations, with intermittent creeks connecting the desert uplands to the floodplain of the Belyando River. But its days are numbered - with plans for up to 12 enormous coal mines so large they are known as mega-mines. Two of the proposed mines are double the size of the largest current coal mine in the country. The footprint of the mines will extend across approximately 160,000 hectares, including vast tracts of good cattle country. If constructed, some estimates suggest the mines will produce up to 330 million tonnes of coal per annum - which will more than double coal production from Queensland.
Mines in the Galilee Basin will 'dewater' local aquifers, risking the regional communities and industries that depend on them and threatening the recharge zones of the Great Artesian Basin.
Tens of thousands of hectares of native bushland will be cleared, and two nature refuges will be mined. One of these, Bimblebox Nature Refuge, harbours around 8,000ha of woodland in the poorly reserved Desert Uplands bioregion. The Refuge, is home to the cryptic and highly threatened Black-throated Finch, and is supposed to be protected under a conservation covenant with the Queensland government.