The Queensland Land Court has recommended New Hope Group receive a stage three mining lease and associated environmental amendment applications for the New Acland coal mine.
New Hope has been pursuing an expansion of the project near Toowoomba in the Darling Downs region for several years.
The recommendation is a significant step forward for New Hope’s embattled plans. The expansion received federal government approval in January 2017 but has faced significant hurdles regarding environmental approval.
In May 2017, the Land Court recommended that an environmental authority amendment for the project’s stage three expansion should not go ahead due to potential environmental impacts. This decision prompted New Hope to pursue a judicial review regarding the Land Court’s decision.
In February 2018, New Hope then suffered another setback when its application for an amended environmental authority was refused by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.
It has since been dogged by litigation from an alliance of local landowners, who have expressed concerns regarding the social and environmental impact of the site, including the amount of groundwater and noise that could be generated should the project go ahead.
New Hope received better news in May when its request for judicial review proved successful. The Queensland Supreme Court in Brisbane overturned the Land Court’s 2017 refusal, believing it to have contained “grounds for review”.
The company today said it remained committed to delivering the stage three project and there were still a number of steps towards receiving final approval.
New Acland’s expansion will still require approval from the Queensland Government, for example. The Land Court’s recommendation is also subject to certain conditions, including the amendment of noise limits.
“Obtaining final approval in a timely manner is critical to ensuring the continuity of operations and therefore employment for approximately 300 employees and 500 contractors currently engaged at the New Acland mine,” New Hope said.
The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the ruling would be “welcome news” for locals living in the region.
“The New Hope mine is one of the region’s most significant employers and one of the most important economic contributors for the Darling Downs,” he said.
“This is new hope for New Hope and the 3000 workers who rely on the Acland Coal Mine for their living either directly or indirectly.”