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Coal giant says it welcomes legal action by Oakey group

New Hope Group says the expansion will bring hundreds of new jobs to the region.
New Hope Group says the expansion will bring hundreds of new jobs to the region. Stuart Cumming

UPDATE: New Hope Group's Managing Director Shane Stephan says the group welcomes the upcoming land court process for the New Acland revised stage 3 plan.

Today environmental group Oakey Coal Action Alliance said it would launch legal action against a proposed major expansion of a coal mine west of Toowoomba.

The group lodged a formal submission to New Hope Group's Acland Mine expansion project and last week made a final decision to pursue an objection in the Queensland Land Court.

New Hope Group says the project will pass any legal scrutiny after going through a rigorous approvals process.

The revised plan, which has been subject to the development of a new Environmental Impact Statement, was issued a draft Environmental Approval from the Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Heritage Protection on August 28 this year.

"As per usual statutory processes for approvals, public submissions were sought on the draft EA and Mining Lease Applications," Mr Stephan said.

Do you support the stage 3 expansion of the Acland coal mine?

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"Those submitters were invited to turn their submissions into objections and those objections and the project now enter the land court process as part of the approvals process.

"Since the initial application for the project in 2007 under the Beattie Government (it then progressed through the successive Bligh and Newman Governments) and prior to the release of the Coordinator General's report in December 2014, the project has been through not just one, but two EIS processes, two additional information and response to submissions periods, and four public comment opportunities.

"Queensland's independent Coordinator-General approved the Acland Coal Mine continuation plan following extensive revision of the original proposal, which resulted in a substantial reduction of the operation's footprint and potential impacts.

"The Coordinator-General imposed 137 conditions on the project and the New Hope Group has made some 890 commitments as part of that approval.

The mine has caused friction on the Darling Downs. Jamie Yarnold, Kelly Purnell, Chantelle McKenna and Dylan Sweeney protest outside the Acland mine gate in August this year.
The mine has caused friction on the Darling Downs. Jamie Yarnold, Kelly Purnell, Chantelle McKenna and Dylan Sweeney protest outside the Acland mine gate in August this year. Contributed

"The project has also been through the Independent Expert Scientific Committee under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

"This type of scrutiny is exceptional for such a project in Queensland - and possibly in Australia.

"Because of this I am confident that the project will hold up to all scrutiny in the land court process and we look forward to providing some security to the 275 current full time local employees and 507 contractors," Mr Stephen said.

EARLIER: environmental group Oakey Coal Action Alliance has launched legal action against a proposed major expansion of a coal mine west of Toowoomba.

The group lodged a formal submission to New Hope Group's Acland Mine expansion project and last week made a final decision to pursue an objection in the Queensland Land Court.

The group is comprised of farmers and residents from the Oakey area and surrounds who they say will be affected by mine expansion.

Frank and Lynn Ashman are beef cattle stud owners at Brymaroo, on the Downs and Mr Ashman is the group's president.

"The Acland stage 3 coal expansion represents a serious threat to our farms, our livelihoods and the health of our local community," Mr Ashman said.

"We have taken the very difficult step of objecting to the project in the Land Court because of the severe and unacceptable impacts it will have on the environment and our community.

"Our case will be that the expansion should not proceed because of the impacts it will have on many aspects including groundwater resources, important farming land and the health of local families.

"The mine will destroy 1,300 hectares of Strategic Cropping Land located on the fertile soils of our nationally significant food-bowl on the Darling Downs.

"It will cause groundwater aquifers to drop by up to 47 metres in some locations and will leave final holes or 'voids' that will cover more than 450 hectares.

"The expansion will worsen air quality for people and farmers surrounding the mine, most of whom are already living with degraded air quality from the current mine.

"We will also contend in court that the costs of this expansion to Queensland far outweigh any public benefits, particularly as mine proponent has estimated that it pays 77 per cent of royalties to itself and only seven per cent to the State Government."

OCAA will be represented in the Land Court by lawyers from community legal centre, Environmental Defenders Office.

"Today we're also calling on people all across Australia to support our local community because we can't do this alone," Mr Ashman said.

"We're asking for our supporters to donate to the Acland fighting fund that has been launched today by Lock the Gate and will be used to support the campaign against this dangerous coal mine."

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection must refer objections to the Land Court by October 19 then the case is expected to begin within about a month.

Topics:  acland land court toowoomba


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