IT HAS a strange name, but Eromanga could be worth billions of mining dollars and deliver thousands of jobs within the decade.
With the hype around the emerging Galilee Basin near Alpha and the Surat Basin in south-west Queensland, the Eromanga Basin has remained off the radar.
But a slew of listed companies releasing their drilling results in the past month hints at a major thermal coal seam surrounding the township of Blackall, about 150km south-west of Alpha or 600km west of Rockhampton.
Three boutique exploration firms are rushing to confirm that coal, in billions of tonnes, lies beneath the surface, so they can woo resource heavyweights to help them mine it.
Perth-based East Energy managing director Mark Basso said that within five years Eromanga would be as well known as Galilee was today.
Mr Basso said East's 2 billion tonnes of coal exploration target was realistic for its Blackall project, but more research was needed.
But indications pointed towards a 100km-long stretch of coal seam in a straight line, kilometres wide.
"It's a massive area of coal," he said.
"People ask me about moving coal 700km from Eromanga to Abbot Point while China is moving coal 4000km from the north to the south."
Mr Basso said East Energy, Coalbank and International Coal exploring in the area all were laying the groundwork in the hope of finding a local or overseas powerhouse to back them.
"These larger companies do not want to go through the 10 years of work - they want the de-risking already done."
International already has a separate joint venture with Gina Rinehart's Queensland Coal Investments to explore near Bundaberg.
International managing director Hugh Dai [CORR] said its South Gombardo Creek project, about 85km south of Blackall, was likely to be sitting on billions of dollars worth of coal.
"These are professional geologists giving us this target, we are not guessing," Mr Dai said.
International, plus its fellow explorers, would likely rely on the GVK Hancock Alpha mine's rail link to Abbott Point in Central Queensland for exporting once production begins
Neither Mr Basso nor Mr Dai would make comparisons between their projects and the ones being developed in the nearby Galilee.
Mr Dai would not be drawn on a year for operation, but said "shorter than 10 years".