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High Court backs OCAA appeal against New Hope coal expansion

High Court backs OCAA appeal against New Hope coal expansion

Photo by Bloomberg

3rd February 2021

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

     

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PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Australian High Court has upheld an appeal by community group Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) against coal miner New Hope Corporation’s New Acland Stage 3 expansion.

The High Court has ruled that the Stage 3 expansion would need to return to the Land Court.

The High Court ruling comes despite the OCAA losing its Queensland Court of Appeal bid in November 2019, prompting the OCAA to seek special leave through the Environmental Defence Office to present its case to the High Court.

New Hope told shareholders on Wednesday that given the unusual circumstances of the High Court proceedings, being only in respect of the Court of Appeal’s final orders and not the substantive issues decided by that court, the High Court’s decision did not provide any certainty for either the company or its workforce.

The ASX-listed miner told shareholders that it would meet with the state government to determine the process for finally deciding on the New Acland project’s outstanding state approvals.

The federal government previously granted the Stage 3 expansion all of the required federal approvals to proceed.

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has also called on the state government to provide certainty around the process required to approve the Stage 3 expansion, with CEO Ian Macfarlane saying New Hope and the resources industry were looking for an assurance that if the approval application was returned to the Land Court, the next ruling from the Land Court would not be further delayed by challenges and appeals by activists.  

He said there was precedent for the government to take action to support the expansion of New Acland Stage 3, which was approved for development by Queensland’s Coordinator General in 2014.

“Former Premier Anna Bligh enacted legislation in 2007 to allow for an expansion of Xstrata’s Wollombi coal mine,” Macfarlane said.

“The Premier took this action after the Queensland Court of Appeal found in favour of objections to the mine and referred the matter back to the Land Court for a re-hearing.”

The Premier’s response was to announce her government would legislate to remove uncertainty, saying the government was not prepared to have this uncertainty.

Macfarlane pointed out that, ironically, the Bligh government’s 2007 decision was the same year New Hope lodged an application to expand its New Acland mine, which was 14 years ago.

“Right now Queensland desperately needs new jobs and a boost in economic activity to stimulate a post-Covid recovery. That won’t happen unless the industry has certainty and confidence in the approval process for mining applications.”

Macfarlane said hundreds of workers employed at New Acland have already lost their jobs and local communities and businesses are suffering because of a small group of activists who refuse to accept the Coordinator General’s decision.

“The QRC has consistently argued that New Hope’s proposal to expand its opencut mine near Oakey should have been approved by the Queensland government after it went through the appropriate state regulatory channels and consultation processes and received Coordinator General approval,” he said.

“It’s extremely concerning that a mining operation can be held up in this way by a small group of people who have been prepared to delay the project by any legal means possible, regardless of the impact on the surrounding community who want this project to happen.

“This type of situation can potentially happen to any company, and reflects very poorly on Queensland’s attractiveness as an investment destination,” he said.

“Right now we need to be focussed on attracting new investment and job opportunities to help Queensland recover from Covid, and long-running debacles like this are doing our industry no favours.”

New Hope subsidiary New Acland Coal currently operates the existing New Acland mine as a 4.8-million-tonne-a-year opencut coal mine, however, the mine’s reserves are depleted. The Stage 3 expansion project will increase the mine’s yearly output to 7.5-million tonnes and will extend the operation’s life by some 12 years beyond the current end-date of mid-2020.

Once approved the New Acland Stage 3 project will create 187 new jobs within the first six months, 487 jobs within 18 months and inject A$7-billion into the economy.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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