The expansion of the controversial New Acland coal mine now appears more likely following the State Government’s “cautious” welcome today of a revised application by New Hope Coal.
The government says a new proposal for the mine has “significantly reduced its impact on agricultural land and impacts on the towns of Acland, Jondaryan and Oakey”.
Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said on that basis, the government was prepared to cautiously examine the scaled down proposal.
During the State Election campaign the LNP appeared to rule out any expansion of the mine.
On February 20, the then-LNP Candidate for Nanango Deb Frecklington said that after “months of lobbying by myself, Ray Hopper and Jeff Seeney, the LNP has made it clear that it will not support the proposal for Acland Stage 3 that would see the expansion of the open cut coal mine digging up strategic cropping land” (SBBiz, February 20, 2012).
“We made clear during the election that an LNP Government would not support the expansion plans for New Acland as then proposed because it would impact good agricultural land and be too close to local communities,” Mr Seeney said today.
“The Premier made good on that commitment on taking office.
“After subsequent discussions the New Hope Group has now come back to government with a vastly reduced proposal which is a big difference from earlier plans and we are prepared to look at this new proposition.
“The revised proposal is 63 per cent smaller than the original. The mining footprint would be reduced by 2300ha.
“Critically, mining over the town of Acland is no longer proposed, neither is diversion of Lagoon Creek; the reduction in scope will move mining 10km from Oakey and the Jondaryan rail load out facility will be moved to the mine site, 8km from the town.”
According to New Hope Coal’s website, the New Acland project will produce up to 10 million tonnes per annum of thermal coal and will include “a land management program conducted by our pastoral company”.
“This program will ensure that mining lease areas are returned to agricultural and conservation uses progressively during the project,” the website states.
Mr Seeney said he was conscious that there would be “strong and divergent views” about this revised proposal for expansion of the New Acland mine “even though it is significantly reduced from the previous proposal”.
“We are also conscious that direct and indirect jobs rest on decisions about the mine as does the significant economic contribution it provides to the region,” he said.
Mr Seeney said the revised proposal would be subjected to rigorous assessment under State and Commonwealth laws.
“Its future will be decided on whether it can meet all those strict requirements,” he said.
Queensland Coordinator-General Barry Broe will take the revised project “back to square one” for community input and draw up new draft terms of reference for a new environmental impact statement (EIS).
The draft terms of reference will be advertised shortly.
“The EIS process is no guarantee the project will proceed – it acknowledges that a significant project requires a rigorous assessment process with the community able to have its say on the project,” Mr Broe said.
There will also be an extended eight-week period for comment – double the standard period.
The proponent is preparing a description document for the public’s review which will provide the new scope for the project.
This document will be made available once the draft terms of reference are released.