[ASC-media] CSIRO Media Release: RESEARCH BLAZES TRAIL TO BOWEN BASIN COAL

Leane.Regan at csiro.au Leane.Regan at csiro.au
Wed Feb 19 07:24:51 EST 2003


 
19th February, 2003 						Ref 03/32

RESEARCH BLAZES TRAIL TO BOWEN BASIN COAL
CSIRO Exploration and Mining has released Supermodel 2000, a comprehensive geological map that is expected to become an indispensable tool for mining companies.  

Supermodel traces the evolution, structure and geological history of one of the world's richest coal deposits, Queenslands mighty Bowen Basin. It may even point to places to search for coal seam methane gas, one of the basin's big untapped
resources.

The basin is the site of big open cut mines and generates most of Queensland's $6.7 billion black coal export earnings.

Supermodel describes 2500 square kilometres of the basin, says CSIRO structural geologist Dr Renate Sliwa.

"It will give companies hints on where to look for new reserves and how to develop existing leases," she says. "It will also help them dodge mining hazards, like geological faults."

With mining and exploration already 600 metres down, companies need hard geophysical data to make tough decisions. Some may switch from open cut to underground mining or use alternative ways of extracting energy from the coal.

The Supermodel research team combined data from CSIRO, mining companies, Geoscience Australia and universities in the meta-analysis.

They took data from 37,000 boreholes sunk by 11 Bowen Basin mining companies, and integrated the information with results from big regional gravity, seismic and magnetic surveys that have probed the basin up to five kilometres below the
surface.

"This is the first time that industry competitors have pooled their resources in this way," says Dr Joan Esterle, leader of CSIRO's coal geology research group.

She said the basin's story started when the western edge of the Pacific Ocean floor began to be destroyed under the eastern edge of the continental plate in a 'subduction zone'. This stretched the continental crust to the west of the zone,
creating rifts that marked the birth of the basin. A violent history followed, marked by subsidence, inundation, uplift, faulting and volcanism.

"Things settled down in the Late Permian, 260 million years ago, when plant matter accumulated in vast swamps next to large river systems winding to the coast," she says.

Over 10 million years, coal measures were formed hundreds of metres thick, with individual coal seams up to 15 metres thick. Comparisons with modern peat-forming systems suggest that each seam would have taken 100,000 years to build up.

The Supermodel team was able to delineate coal reserves and trace the origin of faults, dykes, sills and sandstone channels that pose safety hazards and halt production.

CSIRO, the Australian Coal Association Research Program and industry partners funded the project. Collaborators included Anglo Coal Pty Ltd, BHP Billiton Pty Ltd, North Goonyella Mine, MIM Pty Ltd, Pacific Coal Pty Ltd, Santos Ltd and the
Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

For further information:

Renate Sliwa, CSIRO,  Exploration & Mining, +61 7 3327 4672 renate.sliwa at csiro.au <mailto:renate.sliwa at csiro.au>

Dr Joan Esterle, CSIRO Exploration & Mining, +61 7 3327 4411,
 0417 617 021 
joan.esterle at csiro.au <mailto:joan.esterle at csiro.au>

Media contact: Robert Hoge, 07 3327 4486,  0438 120 401

***************************
Leane Regan
Science Journalist
CSIRO Media Unit
Limestone Avenue
Canberra, ACT
Phone: 02 6276 6513
Fax:     02 6276 6821
Mobile: 0419 236 519
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