FLASHBACK: Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington and then-New Hope chief operating officer Andrew Boyd at the mine site in 2020 … Mrs Frecklington has been urging for the expansion to go ahead   (Photo: Nanango Electorate Office)

December 17, 2021

The Land Court of Queensland has recommended that mining leases for the New Acland Mine Stage 3 coal mine expansion be granted, subject to several conditions.

These include that the recommendation not take effect until the Co-ordinator-General amends EPML 00335713 (the Environmental Authority amendment application) and the Department of Environment and Science incorporates these amendments into the Draft Environmental Authority.

A deadline of May 31, 2022, has been set for this to occur.

The decision has been welcomed by the resources industry but condemned by a local farming group which has vowed to continue its fight against the Stage 3 expansion.

Oakey Coal Action Alliance secretary Paul King urged the State Government to reject New Hope’s groundwater licence, based on the severe impacts it says it would have on farm bores and the environment.

Local grazier Frank Ashman claimed the use of 3.5 million litres of water each day for the expansion would result in a 47m water drawdown affecting more than 1200sq km of prime agricultural land.

Activist group Lock The Gate called on the State Government not to grant any additional approvals to the mining company.

It noted the Land Court’s decision had acknowledged the severe impacts noise and dust from the existing mine have had on nearby farmers and other residents.

The Acland Stage 3 project was originally refused on groundwater grounds in a 2017 Land Court hearing.

Lock The Gate said a law change since then meant that impacts on groundwater could not be considered during this latest hearing.

The Queensland Resources Council welcomed the decision by the Land Court.

Chief executive Ian Macfarlane said it had taken 14 years for the project to finally reach this stage, with the initial development application lodged by New Hope Group in 2007.

QRC said “almost every New Acland employee has lost their job, and local communities and businesses have suffered greatly” because of a seven-year delay in the final approval of the open-cut mine expansion.

“New Hope’s Stage 3 expansion of the New Acland mine was approved for development by Queensland’s Co-ordinator General in 2014, but to get to this decision today it has taken seven long years of pointless lawfare – at great cost to the taxpayer, the company, and to all the employees who lost their jobs,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“This project had gone through all of the State regulatory channels and consultation processes, had been approved by the Co-ordinator General and was supported by the local community, but has been in limbo because of a small group of activists prepared to use any legal means to stop this project from proceeding.

“The QRC congratulates New Hope on its perseverance, and we look forward to seeing how the project progresses from here.”

The coal expansion still requires the grant of an Associated Water Licence for groundwater take and the provision of a mining lease.

Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the State Government has always said it would wait until the legal process finished before any decision was made.

“As a government, we will now thoroughly consider the recommendation from the Land Court of Queensland,” he said.

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