With a name like this and surrounding towns known as Sapphire and Rubyvale, it’s not surprising that Emerald lies within the booming Bowen Basin mining region of Central Queensland.
You only have to check out the Bowen Basin website to know this is a significant region for mining in Australia. As the website says, the Bowen Basin is the largest coal reserve in the country, with 34 operational coal mines extracting more than 100 million tonnes annually. This accounts for more than 80 per cent of Queensland’s coal production (its most important export commodity).
BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) has major operations here, as have Rio Tinto Coal Australia and Sedgman. Yancoal also has the Yarrabee open cut coal mine 40km northeast of Blackwater.
Emerald lies to the southwest of the 60,000sqkm Bowen Basin. It’s also about 270km west of Rockhampton and was actually established back in 1879 as a base for a regional railway line linking the coastal city to the fertile soils of the central highlands.
The town now has a population of more than 11,000 and is the business hub for the Central Highlands Regional Council. The Emerald Airport is 6km outside town, with a number of flights to and from Brisbane daily.
There’s a good array of the shops you’d expect to find in a regional hub: Target, Coles, Betta Electrical, Dick Smith, specialty clothing shops and the like, plus a good-sized hospital with operating theatre.
As for education, Emerald has six primary schools (three are private) and the Emerald State High School. There’s also a campus of the Central Queensland University, a TAFE campus and a rural training centre.
We’re told there’s also a pretty little historical village, while the 1900 Emerald Railway Station, with its elaborate iron lacework, is also worth a few happy snaps. And let’s not forget the 250m-year-old ancient fossilised tree on show outside the Emerald Town Hall, or the world’s biggest Van Gogh sunflower painting and easel, standing 25m tall and celebrating the region’s former glory as a major sunflower producer.
As for industries other than coal, the sapphire fields west of Emerald are the largest in the southern hemisphere (sapphires? yes please!)
And like coal, cotton is also important in these parts (accounting for more than 25 per cent of the state’s crop.) The industry thrives on water from the Fairbairn Dam – one of the largest artificial lakes in the country and a great spot for a nice day out.
Having lived in the Bowen Basin for the last five years, we decided to move to Emerald at the end of 2010 because it just offered our family everything we were looking for in a town. Emerald is big enough to have all the amenities you will ever need but small enough that new residents are still made feel welcome into this close-knit, thriving community.
- Lisa Caffery, working mother of two and DIDO husband
Ever lived in Emerald or around the Bowen Basin? Tell us what it's like.