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ABC News
ABC News
Kemii Maguire

New Acland coal mine expansion begins in Queensland

Preliminary earthworks have begun at a controversial coal mine in southern Queensland following an approval process spanning 15 years.  

Final state government approvals for the third stage of New Hope's New Acland mine, 20 kilometres north of Oakey, were signed off last month.

New Hope has yet to launch its recruitment drive, but general manager Dave O'Dwyer said it had received more than 1,000 expressions of interest for jobs.

He said 229 expressions of interest had been submitted by previous New Acland Mine workers who were sacked between 2019 and late 2021 when coal reserves were exhausted.

Mr O'Dwyer said some previous workers had already made plans to return to the region. 

"A lot of people had moved and worked in the Bowen Basin, so doing long commutes and away from their families," he said.

"Some of our engineers went right up to Moranbah on a 10-day roster."

Some 80 to 100 people were expected to begin work next year, with more than 400 people needed when the mine was fully operational. 

Legal action still possible

The New Acland mine has previously received backlash from some local members and community groups over environmental concerns.

Members of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) have fought the expansion on environmental grounds in the Land Court of Queensland for 14 years.

Secretary Paul King told the ABC in October that further legal action could still be a possibility.

"So long as there are opportunities to protect the groundwater and farmland in Acland, OCAA will be taking those opportunities," he said. 

Opponents referred to government

Mr O'Dwyer said any legal action would be aimed at government bodies.

"We've been through our processes with them, and I feel like everyone has had their fair say," he said. 

"Any further legal actions or reviews is between the objecting group and the state government."

The coal extracted from the New Acland site will mostly be exported to private power generators in Japan along with south-east Asian markets and domestic boutique buyers. 

Work has begun this week to outline the crest of the new pit, with digging expected to begin after Christmas. 

Previously used pits would then be filled and landscaped with the material from the stage three mine.

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