JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Queensland miner New Hope’s plans to expand its New Acland mine, north-west of Toowoomba, have been dealt a blow, as the Department of Environment and Science (DES) on Wednesday refused its application for an amended environmental authority (EA).
The DES did not provide much information about its decision, as it may be subject to legal action, but said that its refusal was in line with the recommendation of the Land Court, which was handed down in May last year.
Disappointed with the outcome of the DES process, New Hope said that it was considering its options.
New Hope has previously called for a judicial review of the Land Court’s decision, which has raised concerns about the impact of the proposed expansion on groundwater in the region, recommending that the mining lease and EA not be granted.
The judicial review would be heard next month, New Hope confirmed on Wednesday.
New Hope subsidiary New Acland Coal currently operates the existing New Acland mine as a 4.8-million-tonne-a-year opencut coal mine on mining lease (ML) 50170 and ML 50216. The mine has reserves that will allow for current operations to continue until about 2017. The Stage 3 expansion project will increase the mine’s yearly output to 7.5-million tonnes and will extend the operation’s life beyond the current end-date of 2017/18.
The expanded operation will result in ongoing employment for about 300 employees and 500 contractors. It will also create 2 300 indirect jobs.
Queensland Resources Council (QRC) CEO Ian Macfarlane said that the decision would hurt regional job prospects, noting the importance of the mine to the Darling Downs.
“This very surprising decision handed down without any reasoning or explanation, puts at risk more than 700 jobs despite the project undergoing rigorous government assessment processes, including an examination by the independent expert scientific committee as part of the federal government’s approval,” he said.
Shares in New Hope fell by 7% to A$2.17 apiece following the DES announcement.