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QRC calls on QLD Government to legislate New Acland’s approvals

QRC calls on Queensland Government to introduce legislation to provide certainty around process to approve New Acland expansion

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) will ask the State Government to provide certainty around the process required to approve an expansion of New Hope Group’s New Acland coal mine.

The QRC’s request comes after the High Court referred an appeal by a small group of environmental activists against the expansion back to Queensland’s Land Court.

Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said New Hope and the Queensland resources industry is looking for an assurance from the State Government that if the approval application is returned to the Land Court, the next ruling from the Land Court won’t be further delayed by challenges and appeals by activists.

He said there was precedent for the government to take action to support the expansion of New Acland Stage 3, which was approved for development by Queensland’s Coordinator-General in 2014.

“Former Premier Anna Bligh enacted legislation in 2007 to allow for an expansion of Xstrata’s Wollombi coal mine,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“The Premier took this action after the Queensland Court of Appeal found in favour of objections to the mine and referred the matter back to the Land Court for a re-hearing.

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“The Premier’s response was to announce her government would legislate to remove uncertainty saying:

”My government is not prepared to have this uncertainty. Next week we will legislate to validate the mining lease so the mine can proceed, but only with stringent environmental requirements” .

Mr Macfarlane said that ironically, the Bligh Government’s 2007 decision was the same year New Hope lodged an application to expand its New Acland mine, which was 14 years ago.

“Right now Queensland desperately needs new jobs and a boost in economic activity to stimulate a post-COVID recovery,” he said.

“That won’t happen unless the industry has certainty and confidence in the approval process for mining applications.”

Mr Macfarlane said hundreds of workers employed at New Acland have already lost their jobs and local communities and businesses are suffering because of a small group of activists who refuse to accept the Coordinator General’s decision.

“The QRC has consistently argued that New Hope’s proposal to expand its open-cut mine near Oakey should have been approved by the Queensland Government after it went through the appropriate state regulatory channels and consultation processes and received Coordinator General approval,” he said.

“It’s extremely concerning that a mining operation can be held up in this way by a small group of people who have been prepared to delay the project by any legal means possible, regardless of the impact on the surrounding community who want this project to happen.

“This type of situation can potentially happen to any company, and reflects very poorly on Queensland’s attractiveness as an investment destination,” he said.

“Right now we need to be focussed on attracting new investment and job opportunities to help Queensland recover from COVID, and long-running debacles like this are doing our industry no favours.”

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AMSJ April 2022