Queensland, Australia – Anna Bligh, the premier of Queensland, Australia, has announced a 20-year moratorium on all mining activities, bulk sampling and exploration for shale oil mining in the Whitsunday region. 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,” Bligh said. “This stops immediate plans to dig up approximately 400,000 tonnes of rock for resource testing from this world-famous landscape. Only one lease, supported by the previous National Party Government, currently exists to mine shale oil, and that is in Gladstone. No new shale oil mines will be permitted anywhere in the State. Government will devote the next two years to researching whether shale oil deposits can be used in an environmentally acceptable way.”

The premier said that growth and development was vital to sustain Queensland’s diverse regional economies, “but we have to ensure that in the process we don’t sacrifice what makes our regions great — the environment and lifestyle they provide. While the development of shale oil has potential as an energy source, we will not allow it until we can be assured that it can be extracted and processed without harming the environment. This is particularly the case for the McFarlane deposit, 15 kilometres south of Proserpine, which is located right on the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.”

Oil shale refers to sedimentary rocks that contain solid combustible organic matter, called kerogen. Under a heating process, kerogen can be decomposed to release hydrocarbons, which can be captured to produce synthetic crude oil and combustible gas. Queensland has approximately 90 per cent of Australia’s known shale oil reserves.

Geoff Wilson, Minister for Mines and Energy, said small-scale demonstration plants using shale oil from the Stuart resource at Gladstone would still be allowed, but only if companies can gain licenses and prove their technology passes the strictest environmental standards. “Over the next two years, the government will review the technology and if it stacks up economically, technologically and environmentally, we will work with industry to see if it could have a broader application further down the track,” Wilson said. “If the objectives of commercial feasibility and environmental acceptance can be met, Queensland could eventually become a major producer of non-conventional oil to help meet national and international demands.”

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