Qld waiting for legal fray to clear at New Acland

19th June 2020 By: Esmarie Iannucci - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Coal miner New Hope has lamented the Queensland government’s decision to delay approval of the New Acland Stage 3 expansion until legal action has been concluded.

New Hope met with the state government to present a roadmap to final approvals for the Stage 3 project, after the High Court of Australia earlier this month granted community group Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) special leave to appeal an earlier ruling on the mine’s expansion.

The Queensland Court of Appeal in 2019 ruled against OCAA, finding that a Land Court decision in 2017 against the expansion of the mine had been affected by apprehended bias.

However, the ruling earlier in June meant that the High Court would now hear OCAA’s argument.

New Hope met with the state government in a bid to gain final approvals for the project, which the company said would create more than 450 jobs and generate A$7-billion for the state economy.

However, the state government has taken the decision to await the conclusion of legal action before approving the mine.

New Hope COO Andrew Boyd this week said that the company was "baffled" by the government’s position.

“Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said time after time that all jobs were precious and that regional jobs mattered to her. With the Downs community in the grip of the worst unemployment in the country and the state facing a post-Covid-19 economic disaster, there has never been a better time to approve Stage 3.

“The Premier is making a big deal of projects in other regions that may generate jobs five or ten years down the track. Acland Stage 3 is shovel ready and can provide long-term jobs now and into the future in a region that is on its knees.

“It is unfathomable that the Premier is willing not only to ignore the hundreds looking for work but also the 150 workers currently at the mine who will be out of work if the project is not approved soon,” Boyd said.

He said the High Court decision to hear an appeal by the OCAA had no bearing on the state government’s ability to approve the Stage 3 project.

“Over the past three years we have fought and won a series of legal battles against this group. Their latest appeal does not challenge findings on groundwater or any other environmental issue that is relevant to any decision being made by government.”

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.