COAL CONCERN: Gympie’s east side residents are worried mystery diggings in the Toolara forest may be a sign of coal exploration.
COAL CONCERN: Gympie’s east side residents are worried mystery diggings in the Toolara forest may be a sign of coal exploration. Contributed

Toolara drill mystery has residents fearing coal mine

MYSTERY diggings in the Toolara state forest area east of Gympie have mine-shy residents fearing for their future.

The Department of Natural Resources and Mines and Gympie Regional Council say the diggings, which residents fear are connected with coal exploration, are "definitely not a mine".

Mayor Mick Curran yesterday acknowledged concerns from residents in the area from Anderleigh to Wolvi and promised the council would not support any mining activity "detrimental to the environment".

"There are no current coal seam gas approvals in Gympie region (but) there are some current coal exploration approvals in place.

"But there's a long way from exploration to a mine," he said.

"You just can't walk in and get a coal seam gas exploration permit anymore," a Natural Resources and Mines Department spokesman said yesterday.

He was responding to alarm among residents on Gympie's eastern side about digging and drilling, possibly for coal exploration, in the Toolara area recently.

But the DNRM spokesman said this could only be confirmed or ruled out if residents were able to provide the department with an exact location.

"It could be to do with forestry," he said.

Cr Curran said the council was not included in the exploration approvals process but said it was committed (as far as its powers allow) to preserving "our existing agricultural and horticultural land, bush reserves, environmental values and tourism opportunities".

It saw these as "essential to the economic and social wellbeing of the region," he said.

The spectre of coal or gas exploration, with the accompanying possibility of mining after that has sparked some of the most politically significant community responses in the region's history.

A year ago, fears of mining in the beautiful near-coastal acreage area prompted the biggest show of community concern ever seen in the near-Goomboorian area.

A big crowd packed out the Goomboorian Hall to show its strong opposition to coal and gas mining, with 250 people present and almost all of them against the idea.

Organiser and resident Bronwyn Marsh quoted hall president Brian Day saying it was "the biggest crowd in the hall for years".

"It doubled hall membership in one afternoon and Lock the Gate Alliance representative for south-east Queensland, Julie Devine said it was the biggest turnout at any of their community meetings in regional Queensland."

The meeting attracted people from as Pomona, Tin Can Bay and Kin Kin.

The issue has continued since, as residents became increasingly aware of coal exploration prospects down much of the Mary River and near Neerdie and Anderleigh.

Residents also attended in force when councillors held a recent "Meet the Councillor" meeting and former Greens candidate Joy Ringrose said residents believed a foreign-owned company had started test drilling.

Ms Marsh accused the council of refusing to engage with the group's concerns.

"Drilling has been happening in the area since 2007," Ms Ringrose said.