Australia’s Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt has called on the Queensland Government to stop delaying and immediately approve the expansion of the New Acland coal mine.
The Liberal Nationals Government gave a strong show of support for the mine extension in the Senate parliamentary vote.
The Labor party and the Greens voted against the motion in what Pitt described as “a betrayal of Queensland resources workers”.
New Hope Group, which operates the New Acland mine in Queensland’s Darling Downs region, has been seeking approval for their stage three expansion since 2007.
This would see the mine life extended to 2031 and boost annual production from 5.2 million tonnes to 7.5 million tonnes.
Delaying the approval will cost 150 workers their jobs, according to Pitt.
“It’s bad enough that the Palaszczuk Government stood by while 150 workers lost their jobs at the New Acland mine last September because approvals were delayed, but now its inaction will cost another 150 workers their jobs,” Pitt said.
Senator for Queensland Paul Scarr, who moved the motion of support for the New Acland expansion in the Senate also expressed his concerns.
“If New Hope can’t expand before they run out of coal in early 2021, they’ll have no option but to shut down,” Scarr said.
“This will be a devastating blow for the Darling Downs community, especially after enduring the economic shock of COVID-19.”
After being forced to cut jobs last September, New Hope completed a restructure of operations in November, which reduced site activities to day shift only.
The size of New Acland’s mining truck fleet was also reduced, with coal processing operations dropped from a two module plant operation to just one.
As New Hope was forced to ramp down New Acland operations, the company was focussed on maintaining safe mining activities and supporting the employees who lost their jobs.
Losing the New Acland mine would be an enormous blow to the company, which closed its Jeebropilly coal mine in south east Queensland last December after 38 years of operation.
The company is now focussed on the environmental restoration of the Jeebropilly site.