February 14, 2018
Farmers in the Acland area are celebrating following a decision by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science to reject environmental approval for New Acland Coal’s Stage 3 mine expansion.
The decision was announced on Wednesday afternoon, but it won’t be the end of the saga which has seen unionists and many Oakey residents in favour of the mine, while farmers and environmentalists have been loud in their opposition.
New Hope Group managing director Shane Stephan said the Department had decided to refuse its application to amend the Environmental Authority (EA) for Stage 3.
“We are disappointed with this outcome and are considering our options in response. As previously advised, a Judicial Review of the Land Court decision is underway,” he said.
“The company is committed to securing approval for this project and in doing so being able to provide ongoing employment for the circa 700 jobs reliant on the project.”
On May 31 last year – after its longest hearing in its 120-year history – the Land Court recommended that the Mines Minister and other government authorities formally reject the mining leases and environmental authorities for the proposed $900 million expansion.
The Land Court said the project could damage groundwater for farmers for hundreds of years.
“Groundwater considerations are such that the revised Stage 3 project should not proceed given the risks to the surrounding landholders and the poor state of the current model,” the judgment read.
The ruling also considered noise levels, dust and air quality issues, and koala habitat.
However, after the hearing the Department of Environment and Science invited New Acland Coal to submit new water modelling for consideration.
And last June, New Acland Coal sought a judicial review of the Land Court recommendation which could invalidate the Department’s decision.
This review hearing is scheduled for March 19.
The ultimate decision whether the Stage 3 expansion goes ahead still rests with Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham who must grant the mining licence for the project.