With an estimated 30 billion tonnes of coal in the ground, there’s a fortune to be made in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, but green groups say trailblazing miners should not get discounts just for chasing it.
They say it's crazy to offer royalty reductions to rich miners like Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart, but Queensland's peak mining body says there should be more of it.
The Queensland government is considering cutting initial royalties for miners that open up the basin in the state's central west.
Premier Campbell Newman says the state cannot afford to let the potential of the Galilee to remain untapped.
"My government is unashamedly all about growing the business of Queensland and we will do all we can to facilitate the projects proposed for the Galilee Basin," Mr Newman said.
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche says "royalty holidays" are needed and should be extended to all miners, not just trailblazers, and beyond the Galilee Basin.
But he says incentives are particularly important to stimulate mining activity in the Galilee where poor infrastructure means projects can cost $10 billion.
"There is more and more coal being found in the Galilee Basin every week so there is probably over 30 billion tonnes of coal in the ground," he told reporters.
However green groups say the coal should stay there.
Greenpeace spokeswoman Louise Matthiesson says the plan to consider royalty cuts suggests that new mega mines in the basin aren't independently viable.
"We are really concerned that ordinary mum and dad taxpayers are going to be giving a handout to the likes of Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer," she said in Brisbane.
Green Senator Larissa Waters agreed, saying discounts would make them even richer at the expense of the Great Barrier Reef, groundwater and climate.
Just days ago, federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved GVK's Kevin's Corner project in the Galilee Basin.
The Alpha Coal project - a joint venture between GVK and Gina Rinehart's Hancock coal - was approved in August last year.
Mr Palmer's Waratah Coal and Indian energy company Adani also have projects in the pipeline.
Proposed projects have a total forecast investment of $28.4 billion and will create more than 15,000 jobs during construction plus 13,000 operational jobs.
Mr Roche says approval to dredge seabed to expand Abbot Point will help unlock this potential, as it's the obvious port for Galilee mines to use. A decision is expected by December 13.