New Acland Mine expansion gets conditional approval

Brandon Long
By Brandon Long
Updated December 17 2021 - 5:35am, first published 5:00am
WAITING GAME: New Acland Coal Mine near Oakey is not mining coal until its stage three applications are finalised. Photo: Melody Labinsky

The Land Court of Queensland has conditionally approved the expansion of the New Acland Coal Mine near Oakey.

Member Peta Stilgoe delivered the verdict on Friday, recommending the New Acland stage three mining leases and the environmental authority amendment application be granted, subject to conditions.

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The Member said she respected opposing residents' views and understood their frustration and mistrust of New Acland, but provisions had been complied with and the past performance of owner New Hope Group had been satisfactory.

"I accept that there have been unreasonable noise impacts in the past and that there have been dust events that may have been concerning to the neighbours," she said.

"If NAC had taken no action to address noise and air quality concerns, I would have no hesitation in recommending against the grant.

"If, as OCAA (Oakey Coal Action Alliance) contends, NAC had continued to minimise residents' concerns and argue against better analysis and protection, I would have no hesitation in recommending against the grant.

"However, in my view, NAC has more than made up for its initial lacklustre response by spending significant time and money to implement a sophisticated real-time responsive TARP (Trigger Action Response Plan).

"NAC may never recover its social licence in the Acland community but OCAA's continued distrust and scepticism cannot be a reason to recommend against the grant."

The expansion still requires the grant of an associated water licence for groundwater take and the provision of a mining lease.

In a statement, owner New Hope Group said it was an excellent result for the company.

"There are still a number of steps required to obtain final project approval for stage three," it said.

"We will continue to work closely with the relevant Queensland government departments to achieve these approvals, which would enable a restart of operations and employment opportunities for hundreds of local workers at the New Acland Mine, as well economic opportunities for the region more broadly."

The Queensland government has always maintained it would let the legal process finish before any decision was made.

"As a government, we will now thoroughly consider the recommendation from the Land Court of Queensland," Resources Minister Scott Stewart said.

In light of the ruling, some farmers have vowed to continue their fight against the expansion.

OCAA secretary Paul King urged the Queensland government to reject the company's groundwater licence based on the severe impacts it would have on farm bores and the environment.

"It's also vital that Water Minister Glenn Butcher now makes the right call and rejects New Acland's application for a groundwater licence for the mine expansion," Mr King said.

Oakey Coal Action Alliance secretary Paul King. Photo: Brandon Long

Local grazier Frank Ashman said he didn't want to see the mine reopened.

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"This area is amongst the best 1.5 per cent of farmland in the state and it produces milk and beef to feed Australia. If you planted a nail here, you'd grow a crowbar," Mr Ashman said.

"We're urging the Queensland government not to reopen this wound and damage our community even more, but instead to reject the groundwater licence and the mining lease, and let us move on with our lives."

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Brandon Long

Brandon Long

Queensland Country Life journalist

Brandon Long is a Queensland Country Life journalist based in Toowoomba.

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