It’s not the first time Emerald has had such a boom. It first flourished from a small central Queensland railway town with an old station, a hospital and a few bush schools to a thriving farming town in the early 70s, when the Fairbairn Dam and Lake Maraboon were built and large-scale cotton and citrus irrigators moved in.
The water brought wealth and prosperity to the tough, dry, cattle and gem-mining district and, just five years later, led to the start of large-scale mining in the nearby Bowen Basin in 1977, home to the largest coal reserves in Australia.
The coal boom was to last 35 years, turning Emerald into a mining wonderland until the boom started crumbling two years ago.
There are currently 477 vacant houses for rent in Emerald and more than 300 on the market. In a town of 12,000 — down from a boom population of 15,000 in 2012 — the bleeding shows.
Modern new homes that were selling like hot cakes for $450,000 in 2012, when coal prices were just off their $142/tonne peak, can now not find a buyer at $250,000.