The surprise discovery of coal in the Pilbara signals there may be many more valuable resources still undiscovered in Western Australia, according to Premier Colin Barnett.
The potentially sizeable coal find by Northern Star Resources near its Paulsens gold mine in the Pilbara was revealed to the ASX on Wednesday, made during reconnaissance drilling searching for gold.
With initial analysis suggesting the coal could be of sufficient quantity and quality to fuel a major base-load power station, Mr Barnett said it could signal a much larger coal deposit across the state.
"I think exploration in the mining industry continually surprises," Mr Barnett said.
"And while Western Australia has arguably got the world's biggest mining industry, perhaps most of the minerals are yet to be found.
"I was very surprised to see coal discovered in the Pilbara - so clearly coal, which was historically thought to be limited in the Collie Basin, is far more prevalent in this state. But it is not the highest quality."
Northern Star has engaged respected independent coal consultants Xenith Consulting to analyse the coal seams, with results to date establishing an exploration target of between 340 and 615 million tonnes.
The coal-fired generators in WA's south-west, which provide electricity to Perth and much of the state's southern regions, consume about six to seven million tonnes of coal a year.Northern Star's shares rose by more than two per cent after the announcement, but dipped back slightly on Thursday.