May 2, 2018
The Supreme Court has ordered the Land Court reconsider its rejection of the controversial Stage 3 expansion of the Acland coal mine.
On May 31 last year, after the longest hearing in its 120-year history, the Land Court recommended the Mines Minister and other government authorities formally reject the mining leases and environmental authorities for the $900 million proposed expansion.
The Land Court ruled 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, mining company New Hope then took the matter to the Supreme Court, citing multiple reasons why the Land Court decision should be reviewed, including a claim the court may have been influenced by media reports.
Justice Helen Bowskill ruled on Tuesday the matter should be sent back to the Land Court for further consideration.
The Supreme Court rejected the claim of procedural fairness or bias, but ruled the Land Court should further consider matters related to groundwater, intergenerational equity (ie. the potential for groundwater impacts to adversely affect landholders in the vicinity of the mine for hundreds of years), and noise.
New Hope welcomed the decision.
“The Supreme Court found grounds for review have been established in the areas of groundwater, noise and intergenerational equity with the consequence that it would be appropriate to order the Land Court’s decision be set aside, and the matter referred back to the Land Court for further consideration,” a company statement said.
“We remain 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.”
Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington also welcomed the decision.
“There are hundreds of jobs and communities depending on the continuation of New Hope’s operation,” Mrs Frecklington said.
“The Palaszczuk Government should have respected the current legal process and not refused the application to amend the environmental authority for the New Acland Stage 3 project.
“The matter will now be reconsidered by the Land Court. As always, the LNP will respect this process. ”
Oakey Coal Action Alliance spokesman Paul King told the ABC that he was seeking legal advice on the decision.