Conservationists have derided the Queensland government for lifting a ban on mining shale oil, saying that development of the industry poses a massive risk to the state's environment.
The Newman government said Wednesday it would lift a 20-year moratorium on shale oil mining imposed in 2008 by the former Bligh Labor government.
"The industry has the potential to create thousands of new jobs in the construction phase along, and provide royalties and other economic benefits for our regional communities and the broader economy," Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said in a statement.
Queensland has about 90 percent of Australia's known shale oil reserves, with the current resource considered capable of producing 22 billion barrels of oil.
The policy change means that a Queensland Energy Resources trial plant at Gladstone, which has been running for several years, can now move into full commercial operation. Other entrants are invited to scale up for commercial production.
The Queensland government noted that developers must comply with environmental regulations, while new entrants will need to prove their shale oil extraction technologies in trials.
An existing 20-year moratorium on developing the McFarlane shale oil deposit near Proserpine would also continue until 2028.
Green groups reacted in anger Wednesday, saying that shale oil mining is a dirty industry that uses destructive processes.
The Australian Conservation Foundation said through a Twitter post that shale oil was a "1980s energy option", while Lock the Gate Alliance noted that the decision to lift the moratorium on shale oil is a "reckless move that will endanger the Queensland environment."
"This decision is in line with the Newman government's support for other high-polluting technologies such as coal seam gas, shale gas and underground coal gasification," Lock the Gate Alliance's President Drew Hutton said in a statement.
Adam Stone, Queensland Green's lead senate candidate, condemned the Newman government's decision Wednesday.
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