Moranbah, a rural and mining town of 7100 people, is 150 km south-west of Mackay. Construction of the town by Utah Development Company began in 1970, the name being taken from the Moranbah Parish and the pre-existing Moranbah pastoral station. The origin of the name was probably Aboriginal, but the meaning is unrecorded.
Utah Development entered into arrangements to mine extensive coal deposits at Goonyella and Peak Downs, approximately equidistant from its planned town. From the beginning Utah planned a town with extensive amenities, including a civic centre, under the government of the local Belyando Shire. The site was scrub land, and the first houses were set in unlovely cleared spaces noted for dust and heat. A school, an ambulance centre and a branch of the Country Women's Association were opened in 1971. The population was approaching 3000 when a hospital was opened in 1974. A state high school was opened in 1976 and the Catholic St Joseph The Worker church was opened in 1979 after several years of shared use of the civic centre for worship.
In its early years the average age of Moranbah's inhabitants was eleven. By 1982, children had become young people and some adults experienced premature death. Moranbah chose to have its own cemetery, as the town was now a home to many people, particularly after a drawn-out strike over a federal government proposal to tax company-owned housing. The landscape had become more an oasis than cleared scrub. A second State primary school, Moranbah East, opened in 1991.
Moranbah's population increased by 1000 people between 2001 and 2006, reflecting the frantic upswing in coal mining. Nearly half the dwellings were rented, about double the average for Australia. Wages were high, the median weekly income per resident in 2006 being $948. That was a little more than double the Australian median of $466. Coal-mining accounted for 43.3% of Moranbah's working population.
There is an extensive shopping centre, a civic centre, Catholic, Anglican and Uniting churches, a wide range of sporting venues and facilities, including bowls and golf, and Miners' and Workers' social clubs.
Since 2001 the Goonyella and Peak Downs coal mines have been operated by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BHP acquired Utah Development in 1984). Anglo Coal has mines at Moranbah North (1998, 2004). A pipeline for coal-seam gas to Townsville opened in 2004.
Moranbah's census populations have been:
The median age of residents is 29 years, compared with 37 for Australia.
Alan Murray, Nothing but scrub, Moranbah, Moranbah Silver Jubilee Committee, Belyando Shire Council, 1996