COAL exploration is set to begin on Ipswich's southern outskirts.
Cuesta Coal is beginning exploration of a site adjacent to the proposed open-cut coalmine at Ebenezer, south of Amberley.
The exploration has outraged environmental groups already concerned with the possible proliferation of coalmines in the region.
Cuesta plans to drill 14 open holes and four cored holes in exploring the Exploration for Coal Permit (EPC) 2127 in the Purga area. According to Cuesta figures there are 40 existing drill holes on the site.
Ipswich and Lockyer Greens convener Ursula Monsiegneur said she was concerned the exploration meant the coal industry in the region was expanding.
She said while no mining could be conducted while the permit remained solely for exploration she was concerned the site could rapidly become a mining development.
"It concerns me that this will end up similar to what is happening in Ebenezer," she said.
"With all the coal trucks that already drive through Rosewood, I doubt the residents would want more coalmining out here."
However, Member for Lockyer Ian Rickuss said the State Government couldn't stand against the mining exploration, with the EPC having been approved by the previous government.
"You have to remember that coalmining is not new for the Ipswich region," he said.
"The permit was given by the previous government and has been agreed to by the landholder.
"People and companies have rights with regards to mining and the only way the government could do anything about it would require compensation, and we simply don't have enough money to do that."
The five-year exploration permit was granted in 2010 to Scorpion Energy, since bought out by Blackwater Coal, which Cuesta Coal acquired in September last year.
Ipswich Council Division 10's Cr David Pahlke said he believed the area was now inappropriate for new coalmines.
"My concern, and this has been my position all along, is that no new coalmines should be between Toowoomba at the coast," he said.
"This is a time when the mining industry in Ipswich should be winding down."
Cuesta managing director Matthew Crawford was unavailable to comment on Cuesta's plans for the Amberley project.
However, in a statement made last month stated he was "encouraged by the potential of this project, coupled with its proximity to rail infrastructure and to the Port of Brisbane."
According to a Department of Natural Resources and Mines spokesman said most EPCs never became mines.
"Very few granted exploration permits ever go on to become a mine," he said.
"The Queensland Resources Council estimates only one in every 200 exploration permits go on to become a commercial mining project.
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