Darling Downs’ farmers and the local community today expressed delight and relief that the Queensland Government’s Environment and Science Department knocked back the approval of the environmental authority for New Acland Coal mine’s controversial Stage 3 coal expansion.
The Land Court last year - in an historic 99-day hearing - recommended against the coal mine expansion into agricultural land, including because of its possible impacts on groundwater supplies.
After the hearing the Environment and Science Department invited New Acland Coal to submit new water modelling, once again plunging farmers’ lives and livelihoods into uncertainty.
Local farmers Sid and Merilyn Plant and their daughter, Tanya have been battling the mine for more than a decade.
"It has been such a battle and so much work and stress for so long. The evidence was on our side but it’s still a massive relief that the department has now formally agreed with the Land Court decision,” Dr Tanya Plant said.
“The earlier stages of the mine supposedly had strict conditions but these weren’t effective. We were really frightened about the impacts and what we’d have to live with if the department had approved the expansion of the mine even with conditions."
The Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Anthony Lynham will make the ultimate decision whether or not to grant the mining licence.
Dr Plant said she hoped that today’s decision would finally be the end of this battle and any risk of the proposed stage 3 expansion progressing and that they could move on with their lives free from this terrible stress.
Mr Plant said approval for the mine expansion would be "totally contrary to actions we need to take to counter climate change"
"It was a massive blow for the Environment Department to go outside the usual process and allow the mine to present new material to the Government, that couldn’t be tested in court, after Land Court’s decision last year," Mr Plant said.
“The department let us down spectacularly but common sense has prevailed and we hope we can finally just get on with our lives and livelihoods.”
An expert witness at the Land Court case, Professor John Quiggin - a research Economist at the University of Queensland- said Australia was being left behind with the switch from coal to renewable energy.
“The Minister’s decision to accept the recommendation of the Land Court and prevent expansion of the Acland coal mine is welcome news,” Professor Quiggin said.
“The concerns of the local community, reflected in the Court’s decision, have been validated. Australia needs an orderly plan to deal with the global transition towards a decarbonised electricity supply, which will inevitably involve the closure of coal mines. Preventing the establishment of new mines and large-scale expansions like that proposed for Acland is an important first step.”