QUEENSLAND is a state heavily reliant on resources for its economic prosperity, and the South Queensland Energy and Resources Expo is a key networking opportunity for businesses in the Toowoomba region.

According to Toowoomba regional council mayor Paul Antonio, mining generated just over $940m in the 2017/18 financial year.

“The mining and resources industry makes up around 14pc of our $10.81 billion Gross Regional Product, with most of this coming from the coal and gas industry,” Mr Antonio said.

“As mayor of this region, I advocate at every opportunity for an informed balance between the economic opportunities presented by the mining and resources boom and the future health of our environment, ongoing prosperity and long-term sustainability of our agricultural industry.”

Mr Antonio’s sentiments are echoed by the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE), which is presenting an Enterprise Evening as the main business and industry networking opportunity for the Expo on October 16.

The enterprise evening will feature EnergyQuest head of consulting Richard Wilkinson, who will provide an update on domestic gas and export developments happening nationally and in the region, as well as his views on future demands and potential inhibitors; and the Clean Energy Council director energy generation Anna Freeman, who will provide an update on projects happening nationally and in the region for the renewable energy industry.

The final speaker for the evening is the Queensland Resources Council policy director, infrastructure and economics, Andrew Barger, who will comment on the current and future opportunities for the coal sector in Queensland.

TSBE is working with businesses with an interest in the developments and growth from renewable energy, gas and mining through to infrastructure, engineering, construction and transport that are happening in the Darling Downs and Surat Basin region.

“Energy, metals, minerals are the building blocks of economic growth and new technologies are driving up demand, particularly in Queensland’s traditional markets in South East Asia,” a TSBE spokesperson said.

“But we must consider if we are doing everything required to grab these opportunities in Queensland. TSBE plays a major role in linking these opportunities to businesses in the region encouraging an investment in local content and capability.”

According to the TSBE, resources contribute $1.8b to the Darling Downs GRP (which is 11pc of the GRP) and provides 9200 full time jobs.

“Investment in our region is continuing and we’re seeing increased drilling of gas wells in the Western Downs and Maranoa,” the spokesperson said.

“The Queensland Government’s release of CSQ tenements to be utilised for domestic gas production has seen new players such as Senex Energy, Central Petroleum and Armour Energy offered mining leases.”

TSBE believes the region has unrivalled road, rail and air connectivity, and is perfectly positioned for long-term prosperity, especially with large projects supporting logistics infrastructure, including the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport and the upcoming Inland Rail.

“Exporting our products is a huge focus for the Toowoomba region,” the spokesperson said,

“TSBE has received a federal government grant to assist food and agriculture businesses as well as businesses innovating in the oil and gas space to export their products and ideas overseas.

“This creates a strong flow-on effect in the supply chain, economy and local communities.

“The Enterprise Evening will showcase the opportunities on offer as Queensland aims to resource the future.”

The future of Queensland’s mining industry beyond coal will be at the centre of industry leaders’ speeches and networking discussions at the expo.

Beyond coal

According to the Clean Energy Australia Report, as at 2018, Queensland renewables make up 9.5pc of Renewable Energy Penetration across Australian states.

Renewable energy projects offer short and long-term work within the region, with a range of industries and businesses involved.

“Renewable projects are on the rise in our region. Yarranlea Solar Farm will be complete this month providing 100MW of power, the Coopers Gap Windfarm near Kingaroy will be up and running next year providing 450MW, and approval has just been given for a 250MW windfarm in Dulacca,” the TSBE spokesperson said.

“There are another 20 or so other renewable projects that are in various stages of approval.”

The future of Queensland’s mining industry beyond coal will no doubt be at the centre of industry leader’s speeches and networking discussions at the expo, with the recent controversy around the New Hope’s New Acland Stage 3 coal mine expansion being rejected by the State Government.

Mr Antonio said the mine was a major economic contributor to the Toowoomba and Southwest Queensland region, injecting $300m into Queensland’s economy and $100m into the Darling Downs economy annually.

“We have great concerns for the future of workers, local businesses and families whose livelihoods depend on the project proceeding,” he said.

“The impact of the mine stretches much further than the community of Oakey and the Toowoomba Region. The government can’t ignore the $530m per annum economic impact of the mine expansion.

“The operation employs about 800 staff, including 275 local men and women and 507 contractors, as well as providing for around 2,300 indirect jobs.”

Mr Antonio also expressed concern that the loss of coal from Acland on the rail freight network would adversely affect transport costs for agricultural commodities across south west Queensland due to a loss of cross-subsidies, especially for grain, and would affect ongoing rail line maintenance costs at a time Queensland should be vigorously pursuing efficiencies to grow its world-class agricultural offering.

But the main point of contention around New Acland is the future of coal in Queensland.

“A rejection of the application for the Stage 3 expansion of the New Acland mine would deliver a devastating economic and social blow to the community of Oakey, which is still reeling from the highly publicised impact of ground-water contamination, as well as to the broader Queensland economy,” Mr Antonio said.

“When weighing up the prospects for a sustainable resource industry, my interest lies in what is the best outcome for our region.

“We need the best outcomes for employment, the environment, but also our communities.”

Mr Antonio said that Queenslanders had to decide, if the future is not in coal in the region, which opportunities would replace the industry.

“We must ensure that regional communities that rely on coal production so heavily for employment can get certainty about their economic future,” he said.

“Significant investment by all levels of government and the private sector will be needed to fill the void.”

The South Queensland Energy and Resources Expo takes place at the Toowoomba Showgrounds on October 16-17 and will showcase dozens of companies with new innovation and products that are suitable for all areas of mining, energy, renewables and infrastructure building across South Queensland and into the Surat Basin.