Mining giant Glencore has secured the first mining leases from Queensland government for its $7bn Wandoan coal project in Australia’s Surat Basin.

The announcement was made by the Queensland Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham. Glencore obtained the lease for a period of 27 years, which would cover about 30,000 hectares under the Stage 1 of the proposed $7bn ($5.52bn) Wandoan coal project near Roma.

When operational, the mine is expected to create about 1300 local jobs, while producing about 22 million tons of high-quality thermal coal every year.

This is considered to be the first major coal project of such a massive scale and it still requires the construction of a rail link to the Port of Gladstone to export the coal produced.

The Chronicle has cited resources expert Michael Roche as saying that Glencore might not be able to start building the coal project until later next year.

Roche stated that rail link is the missing piece of puzzle here and Glencore is most likely to fund the rail link project as well, which could cost nearly $1bn.

On the other hand, Lock the Gate Alliance, a not-for-profit organization which includes farmers, traditional custodians, conservationists and urban residents, has slammed the government’s decision. It said that the approval was an attack on the future of agriculture in Queensland.

Lock the Gate spokesperson Carmel Flint was quoted by Queensland Country Life as saying: “The mine will extract 22 million tonnes of coal each year for 35 years and destroy up to 32,000 hectares of farmland on the Western Downs.

"A large number of farmers have already been displaced by Glencore over this vast area, and now we fear that remaining farmers on and near the lease will be forced out."

Image: Glencore granted leases for coal mines in Queensland. Photo: Courtesy of Tomasz Kobosz/