The Bowen Basin, an area rich in coal and gas deposits, extends southwards from Collinsville (near Bowen) to Emerald and Moura (west of Bundaberg). Its area is put at 60,000 to 75,000 sq km, over a length of about 650 km. The basin is shaped like an inverted Y: the single stem of the Y runs from Collinsville to Dysart, a land corridor seldom wider than 50 km, where the majority of mines are worked. The two subsidiary stems run south-west to Emerald and beyond, and south to Moura and Theodore.
The area around Collinsville is drained northwards by the Bowen River. The river, and hence the Bowen Basin, were named after Queensland's first Governor, Sir George Bowen (1821-99).
The Queensland geological surveyor, Robert Logan Jack, reported on the Bowen River coal field in 1878, but exploitation of the field awaited State government investment in the early 1920s at Collinsville. Other coal mines in the general area included Blair Athol and Callide, but these are west and east of the Basin. By the late 1950s there were mines at Baralaba and Bluff (the south of the Basin) and at Kianga near Moura, further south. The massive developments in the middle of the Basin lay ahead.
By the 1960s it became the practice to form townships away from the coal fields, and the middle Basin's new towns were (from north to south), Glenden (1983), Moranbah (1970), Dysart (1973), Middlemount (early 1980s) and Tieri (1981). In other instances existing towns or villages rapidly increased their populations, eg Blackwater on the Capricorn Highway between Rockhampton and Emerald. Biloela grew as the dormitory town for the Callide coal field.
The coal is railed to Mackay and Gladstone for export. New lines were constructed, from the mines to older trunk lines, the largest being built in stages (1972-82) to service mines north and south of Dysart. The Mackay coal-loading facilities are at Dalrymple Bay and Hay Point, both about 25 km and 30 km to the south of the city. Gladstone coal-loading is done at Barney Point in the port of Gladstone. Collinsville coal is used on site on a power station, or railed to Bowen for coke production or for export from Abbot Point.
Bowen Basin's main coal-based townships are:
Future growth coal towns may include Theodore, Rolleston and Springsure.
The Bowen Basin also has a diverse agricultural economy which is discussed in the entries on the former shires listed below.
Banana Shire, Belyando Shire, Bowen Shire, Broadsound Shire, Duaringa Shire, Nebo Shire and Peak Downs Shire entries