New Acland delay prompts calls for reform

Image: New Hope Group

New Hope Group’s proposal for the stage three expansion of the New Acland coal mine in Queensland has received another setback with the High Court of Australia referring the case back to the Land Court of Queensland.

The High Court found that the Land Court’s second decision to approve New Acland should have been set aside due to bias arising from errors in fairness.

The High Court, instead, upheld Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA)’s appeal against the New Acland expansion after the latter first lost its Queensland Court of Appeal bid in 2019.

OCAA sought special leave through the Environmental Defence Office to present the case to the High Court.

Federal Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt is urging the Queensland Government to reform its approval process for resources projects.

“This is a classic example of the Queensland approval process allowing activists to use the courts and legal system to delay legitimate resources projects,” Minister Pitt said.

“Once again a regional area is in danger of missing out on the job and economic boost a project like this will bring because out-of-town and interstate activists know how to use the legal system to support their agenda.

“It is extremely frustrating for the many workers trying to plan their lives around the mine’s future who are now back to square one.”

New Hope first lodged an application to expand New Acland in 2007.

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has also pledged to push the Queensland Government to provide certainty around the New Acland expansion.

“The QRC has consistently argued that New Hope’s proposal to expand its open-cut mine near Oakey should have been approved by the Queensland Government after it went through the appropriate state regulatory channels and consultation processes and received Coordinator General approval,” QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said.

“It’s extremely concerning that a mining operation can be held up in this way by a small group of people who have been prepared to delay the project by any legal means possible, regardless of the impact on the surrounding community who want this project to happen.

“This type of situation can potentially happen to any company, and reflects very poorly on Queensland’s attractiveness as an investment destination.”

New Hope has already faced job cuts at New Acland with the near 500 remaining workers now at risk of facing a job loss, the Australian Resources & Energy Group (AMMA) stated.

“After beginning the approval process 13 years ago, it is disappointing New Acland’s job-creating expansion will be subject to another frustrating layer of uncertainty,” AMMA director operations Tara Diamond said.

“This is a shovel-ready project that would create hundreds of critically-needed jobs as Queensland looks to recover from the employment and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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