On 17 December, the Land Court of Queensland recommended the approval of the New Acland mine expansion located outside Oakey on the Darling Downs.
The recommendation was made subject to the condition that the operator, New Hope Corporation subsidiary New Acland Coal Pty Ltd (NAC), applies to the Coordinator-General to have the Environmental Authority conditions amended. The Department of Environment and Science has issued a series of draft Environmental Authorities that will regulate Stage 3 if approved.
Some of the stricter conditions include the lower evening (6-10pm) and night (10pm-7am) noise limits of 35dB.
If NAC fails to do so before 31 May 2022 or, if before that date the Coordinator-General decides not to amend the stated conditions, the court recommended that the Department of Environment and Science refuse the application.
On 28 August 2015, NAC applied to expand the mine, but Oakey Coal Action Alliance Inc. (OCAA) and others objected to both the grant of the mining leases for Stage 3 and the draft EA published in 2016.
OCAA’s current objections to Stage 3 are limited to NAC’s past performance and the significant adverse environmental impacts of noise and air quality. Their objections brought the dispute before the Court and led to a landmark win in Australia’s High Court in 2021 which prompted the December Land Court re-hearing.
The OCAA has been represented by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) legal team.
EDO Managing Lawyer Sean Ryan said while the mining leases were recommended to be granted once the environmental approval is resolved, the Department of Environment and Science and the Land Court were both persuaded that stronger conditions on the environmental approval were appropriate.
“These stronger conditions will require review by the Coordinator-General. The Land Court was clear that if the conditions are not changed to account for its reasons then the project should not be granted environmental approval.
“These hard-won added protections will go some way to safeguarding the community from the impacts of this mine if it does go ahead.
“We are consulting with our client around further legal options that may be available to them in their efforts to protect their community and prime agricultural land from mining.”
Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt said the project has been subject to continuous opposition for well over a decade, with the delays killing local jobs which are overwhelmingly supported by the community.
“The mine’s closure last month and the loss of nearly 300 Queensland jobs lies directly at the feet of the Labor State Government after it withheld relevant approvals in the hope the mine would fail in the court.
“The Premier now must act immediately to ensure that the Court’s recommendations are put in place and the New Acland project is approved,” Minister Pitt said.