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New Acland Stage 3 coal mine expansion project, Australia – update

12th February 2021

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Name of the Project
New Acland Stage 3 coal mine expansion project.

Location
Queensland, Australia.

Project Owner/s
New Acland Coal (NAC), a subsidiary of the New Hope Group.

Project Description
NAC operates the existing New Acland coal 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 project will expand the mine’s yearly output from 4.8-million tonnes to 7.5-million tonnes and will extend the operation’s life beyond the current end-date of 2017/18.

The revised coal project proposes to develop Stage 3 of the New Acland mine, which involves the extension of the mine’s operating life to about 2029, including the progressive development of two new resource areas within the area covered by Mining Development Licence 244, also covered by ML application 50232.

The two resource areas will be developed sequentially and, combined with the current operations, will supply up to 7.5-million tonnes a year of saleable product coal for the export and domestic markets until about 2029.

Key features of the project include:

  • developing parts of the Manning Vale and Willeroo resource areas;
  • upgrading the existing coal handling and preparation plant and supporting infrastructure;
  • constructing a new coal load-out facility on the mining lease and an estimated 8 km rail spur, as a result of the relocation of the existing Jondaryan coal load-out facility;
  • roadworks and constructing water management structures; and
  • relocating and potentially upgrading the power supply to the revised project.

The Acland town area, including Tom Dohertypark, the War Memorial and the Acland No 2 colliery and utility services, will be maintained over the life of the revised project.

The closest point of potential mining operations will be at least 10 km away from Oakey, compared with the 7 km previously proposed.

The land disturbed for mining activities will be reduced by more than half, compared with the original Stage 3 proposal.

Veneering to coat all transported coal leaving the mine by train as a measure to reduce the potential for coal dust coming from trains will continue.

Lagoon Creek will not be diverted as previously proposed. Operations will continue to be self-sufficient for water, with water continuing to be bought from Toowoomba’s Wetalla wastewater reclamation facility. Only about 20% of the Wetalla water is bought by NAC.

Production levels from the New Acland mine will be reduced by at least 25% to 7.5-million tonnes a year from the originally proposed ten-million tonnes a year.

Potential Job Creation
Once approved, the New Acland Stage 3 project will create 187 new jobs within the first six months and 487 jobs within 18 months.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
Not stated.

Capital Expenditure
A$900-million.

Planned Start/End Date
About 2.5 years will be required to complete the design and build the mine, as well as other activities to facilitate the revised project.

Latest Developments
The Australian High Court has upheld an appeal by community group Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) against the New Acland Stage 3 expansion.

The High Court has ruled that the expansion will 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 has said 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 does not provide any certainty for either the company or its workforce.

The miner has said that it will 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 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 having said that New Hope and the resources industry are looking for an assurance that if the approval application is returned to the Land Court, the next ruling from the Land Court will not be further delayed by challenges and appeals by activists.  

Macfarlane has said that there is precedent for 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 has 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 rehearing.”

The Premier’s response has been to announce that her government will legislate to remove uncertainty and that is not prepared to have this uncertainty.

Macfarlane has 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 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 has said that 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 maintained that New Hope’s proposal to expand its opencut mine near Oakey should have been approved by the Queensland government after it followed the appropriate state regulatory channels and consultation processes, and received Coordinator General approval.

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

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
Not stated.

Contact Details for Project Information
New Acland Coal, tel +61 7 3418 0500, fax +61 7 3418 0355 or email aclandinfo@newhopegroup.com.au.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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