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Australia's Queensland offers 5 areas for coal exploration as Asian demand set to rise: sources

Singapore — The government in Queensland, Australia has released a tender for coal exploration in five new areas in Bowen Basin, which could potentially add more thermal coal volume to meet Asian coal demand in the future, market sources said Wednesday.

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This is part of the plan that could potentially bring in revenue for the government in the coal-rich province, market sources added.

The five areas, totaling 458 sq km, are located in Moranbah, Blackwater and south-east of Emerald in Bowen Basin, which already have access to rail and port infrastructure.

Aside from Moranbah, which could potentially produce coking coal, the four other areas are likely to be explored for thermal coal reserves, according to the tender document on the government website.

"This is a normal course of offering leases and exploration phase," a Singapore-based commodities consultant said.

He added that the coal exploration process to determine the reserves would take months and even years to complete before mining works begin.

The new tenders come as global environmentalists call to move away from coal amid the controversy surrounding Indian company Adani's coal extraction at Carmichael mine in Queensland.

ASIA COAL DEMAND

"Asia still needs coal, and even though some of the major banks are not financing coal development, there are still other financial institutions in Asia which will take on the projects," the same source said.

The Queensland government highlighted that the companies participating in the tenders "must have adequate financial capabilities and the right skills to explore, develop and take the resources to market and drive growth in regional Queensland."

The tender closes October 10.

In addition to coal, the Queensland government has also called for exploration for petroleum and gas in 11 areas in the Bowen and Surat basins.

Australia is the world's second largest thermal coal exporter.

Australia's thermal coal export volumes are estimated to have reached a record 209 million mt in 2018-2019, up by 3.2% from 2017-2018, according to Australia's June edition of Resources and Energy Quarterly.

"Export volumes are forecast to grow by a further 7 million mt over the next two years, reaching 216 million mt in 2020-2021, supported by productivity improvements, expansions, and the ongoing ramp up of the Mount Pleasant mine and other operations," the report said.

According to a December report by the International Energy Agency, increased growth for coal demand was seen largely in Asian countries, including China, India and a few countries in South and Southeast Asia.

-- Hui Min Lee, hui.min.lee@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Norazlina Jumaat, norazlina.jumaat@spglobal.com