The New Acland Coal Mine. Photography: Russell Shakespeare
The New Acland Coal Mine. Photography: Russell Shakespeare

Political battle over New Acland mine expansion heats up

THE Queensland Resources Council has welcomed the bipartisan support from some Federal Labor MPs and the LNP for the immediate approval of the New Acland coal mine stage three expansion.

The Australian reported this week Ipswich-based MP Shayne Neumann had called on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to "get on with it" and approve the expansion.

"It is good for jobs, good for the economy and as long as it satisfies environmental standards, they should get on with it," he told The Australian.

New South Wales-based Federal Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon also threw his support behind the project.

Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said approving the mine would be a priority for her if her party is elected at the October election.

"This is a project that will be a significant jobs generator and support local businesses in the Darling Downs economy," Mrs Frecklington said.

"It will supercharge regional economic growth by $7 billion and boost local freight and jobs with the rail extension.

"It's time for Labor to approve New Acland stage three and stop costing jobs by hiding behind legal processes.

"An LNP Government I lead will approve this project as a priority and back the jobs that come with it."

The comments come after 14 per cent of New Hope Group's corporate office staff in Brisbane have lost their jobs, in the latest round of cuts to the company, this week.

QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said it was tragic to hear New Hope had been forced into making redundancies.

"The Queensland Government has sat back and allowed lawfare by a small group of green activists to jeopardise the economic recovery of this state by delaying New Acland," Mr Macfarlane said.

"This is a shovel-ready project that has dragged through the court system in Queensland for more than a decade and all challenges against it have been dismissed.

"Now the activists have taken the project to the High Court which could delay the start by years more. Queensland needs jobs now and I can tell you these workers and their families need these jobs.

"The State Government is not powerless here. It could step in at any time to approve the mining lease and associated water licence."

"There couldn't be a worse time to stop new jobs in Queensland yet activists are being given the green light to delay and stop any Queensland jobs being created at their political whim."

The State Government has previously said it would not issue final approvals for stage three until all legal hurdles are cleared, a position Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham reiterated this week.

"The government's position on the New Acland Coal Mine expansion has been consistent since our commitment before the 2017 election: to accept the decision of the courts," he said.

"We will await the outcome of the High Court processes before finalising the remaining approvals for this project."

Last year the Queensland Court of Appeal ruled against activist group Oakey Coal Action Alliance and found a 2017 Land Court decision against the mine was impacted by apprehended bias.

The OCAA appealed to the High Court, which in June granted leave to hear the activist group's case against the mine.

Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokeswoman Ellie Smith said in June the High Court case was welcomed by activists.

"New Acland owners New Hope will stop trying to bully the Palaszczuk Government into approving this destructive coal mine expansion," she said.

"So much has been lost already with stages one and two of this truly terrible mine, so we will fight until the very end to stop Stage 3," she said.

"If the New Acland Stage 3 thermal coal mine is approved, it would destroy more than 1,300 hectares of mapped Strategic Cropping Land and drain 365 water bores."