New Hope Group has finally received federal approval for the $900 million expansion of its New Acland coal mine in Queensland, a decade after first proposing the growth project.
The mine expansion still requires several state-based approvals, including the mining lease, environmental authority and associated water licence, before New Hope can consider a final investment decision.
Once approved, New Hope plans to increase the annual production of thermal coal at New Acland to 7.5 million tonnes.
New Hope managing director Shane Stephen said the federal government’s protection and biodiversity conservation act (EPBC) approval – provided after thorough review of the expansion’s potential impacts – demonstrated that the environmental credentials of the project “stack up”.
“It’s positive news for the local community as it provides optimism for the continuity of operations at New Acland and the increased economic activity associated with the construction of the project,” Stephen said.
He added the project would create up to 260 construction jobs, ongoing employment for up to 435 people directly and 2300 indirectly, as well as a $12 billion economic benefit over the project life to 2029.
The announcement also brings “some degree of comfort” to the 300 local employees, 500 local employees and thousands of others who depend on the mine, according to Stephen.
“Our 300 direct local employees and 500 contractors have been anxiously awaiting federal and state approval of this project for many years,” Stephen said.
“Whilst we welcome the federal EPBC Act approval, timing of state approvals is absolutely critical as the current mining lease is running out of resource and a considerable amount of construction activity is required to enable access to Stage 3 coal.”
Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the approval was welcome relief after years of delays.
“This project has been scrutinised by both state and federal governments, and has held up under the scrutiny of experts to meet some of the highest environmental standards in the world,” Macfarlane said.
“We now call on the state government to do its part to help New Hope gain the remaining critical approvals before the current resource runs out.”