A COAL mine could be operating west of the Hervey Bay region before the end of the decade.
If approved, the project could deliver a desperately-needed economic injection to the Sunshine Coast, Gympie, Hervey Bay and Bundaberg - all within a two hour drive from the proposed site.
Junior mining firm Tiaro Coal has created subsidiary Paragon Coal to better focus on developing a project north of Munna Creek, west of the Fraser Coast.
Tiaro must now ramp up its analysis of the metal-making coal deposits in the area.
It must secure proof of how much coal is available to better court investors and government approval.
If developed, Tiaro's Munna Creek would side-step the issue of whether to use fly-in, fly-out workers, with staff able to easily commute from seaside towns.
The size and scale of the mine will depend on how much coal is available, although Tiaro chief executive Dan Buckley said he would consider both open-cut and underground mining.
He said the goal for Tiaro and Paragon was to have an operating mine by 2020 but warned international markets and government policy were unpredictable.
"Without having done the mining studies, it is unclear whether there is a viable project there," Mr Buckley told APN.
"But I wouldn't be here otherwise. There is a lot of work to be done."
Tiaro would need a heady dose of funding from investors to develop the project.
It is already seeking to find a partner to form a joint venture.
The State Government warned Tiaro must also secure a mining lease on its two exploration sites.
The Department of Mines would consider the project's economics, community benefit, environmental credentials, chance of success and native title requirements.
Extensive community consultation would also be required before the State agreed to allow the lease.
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