September 3, 2019
New Hope – operators of the New Acland coal mine – have sacked 150 workers after the State Government failed to meet the company’s September 1 deadline to approve Stage 3 of the mine.
In a media statement released on Monday, New Hope said it had been “given no choice but to make 150 workers redundant at the New Acland Mine, with crews informed as they started work at 6:00am”.
The redundancies represent about half the New Acland workforce.
The company said it was yet to receive any indication from the State Government regarding the future of the mine and its application for:
“The company advised the government in June that these approvals were needed by September 1 in order to provide continuity of operations from Stage 2 to Stage 3 and prevent job losses,” the company statement said.
“The government’s silence on these approvals gives us no choice but to initiate the redundancy process.”
“The company is committed to securing approval for this project and in doing so being able to provide ongoing employment at the New Acland Coal Mine.”
“The sooner the approvals for Acland Stage 3 are given the sooner new jobs can be created and fewer jobs lost through the transition from Stage 2 to Stage 3 at Acland.”
New Acland Coal general manager Dave O’Dwyer said he thought the State Government cared about regional jobs and regional Queenslanders.
“This Premier (Annastacia Palaszczuk) stood up and stated to the party faithful last weekend of the importance of regional jobs and the coal sector,” Mr O’Dwyer said.
“The Palaszczuk Government is responsible for 150 workers and their families losing their livelihoods leading into Christmas.”
The New Hope statement said the company remained open to working with the State Government to save jobs and secure the future prosperity of Oakey and the surrounding region but “12 years to wait for approvals is long enough”.
The company has said previously that Stage 3 was expected to generate $7 billion in economic activity over the expected 14-year life of the project.
Resources Minister Anthony Lynham told the media on Monday the State Government would not be making any decision on the New Acland mine expansion until a final court challenge was resolved.
“The government is awaiting the decision of the Court of Appeal before deciding on matters relating to the New Acland mine expansion,” Dr Lynham said.
The Oakey Coal Action Alliance has an action before the Supreme Court of Appeal in Brisbane, seeking to overturn a 2018 Supreme Court decision that would see groundwater impacts no longer allowed to be considered in some mining objection hearings.
Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE), which has been lobbying on behalf of the mine expansion, said the redundancies were “bad news for our region with major jobs losses but it is also ripping $110 million out of our local economy”.
A petition organised by TSBE, Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce and the Oakey Chamber of Commerce backing the expansion was presented to State Parliament in August.
Opposition Leader and Member for Nanango said on Monday an economic disaster was unfolding on the Darling Downs.
She said she was appalled at Labor’s failure to approve the extension of the mine before New Hope’s deadline.
“I feel desperately sorry for the 150 people whose lives are up in the air today because Annastacia Palaszczuk is anti-resources, anti-regions and anti-jobs,” Ms Frecklington said.
“The town of Oakey is staring at economic ruin just because Annastacia Palaszczuk can’t make a decision.”
Mrs Frecklington said the Stage 3 expansion was approved by the Co-Ordinator General in 2014 and the Environmental Authority was approved in March.
“Labor now claims to support coal mining but the people of Oakey know that is a complete lie,” Mrs Frecklington said.
The Stage 3 expansion at the New Acland mine has had a chequered history.
The initial proposal sparked loud protests from the local farming community, former Acland residents – including shock jock Alan Jones – and environmental groups.
In 2012, the LNP made an election promise that it would not support Stage 3.
“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,” the then-candidate for Nanango Deb Frecklington said.
However, after the LNP won the 2012 State election, New Hope presented a revised application which then-Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said was 63 per cent smaller than the original.
“The mining footprint would be reduced by 2300ha,” Mr Seeney said.
“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.”
The Queensland Coordinator-General took the revised project “back to square one” for community input and draw up new draft terms of reference for a new environmental impact statement.