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Oakey's New Acland coal mine faces fresh Land Court challenge over water licence

The expanded New Acland mine is expected to produce its first shipment of coal in August. (ABC Southern Queensland: Nathan Morris)

Just when a controversial Queensland mine expansion seemed all but complete, an eleventh-hour legal bid aims to stop it in its tracks.

The Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) has lodged an application in the Queensland Land Court seeking to overturn the government's 2022 decision to approve the licence needed for the expansion of the New Acland mine on the Darling Downs.

OCAA secretary Paul King said the alliance believed the government made an error by not properly investigating the mine's effect on groundwater resources.

"We think the Queensland government made a mistake in the technical aspects of that licence," Mr King said.

"To protect the farmers in the district, we need to take this water licence to court and have it tested fully and properly."

Legal options

The stage three expansion of the New Acland mine has been mired in legal challenges, spending more than 15 years in the Queensland Land Court.

Mr King said the latest challenge was the "last, best opportunity" to protect farming land from the mine.

"There are not too many more legal options that we can identify," he said.

Paul King (right) says he believes the government has made a mistake in approving the water licence. (ABC Southern Queensland: Elly Bradfield)

The mine's owner, New Hope Group, said its project had been the most reviewed and scrutinised resources project in Queensland's history.

"The licence has been subject to exhaustive reviews, comment and assessment by independent experts, peer reviewers, objectors, state regulators and Commonwealth agencies," a company spokesperson said.

They said the latest legal challenge repeated arguments that had already been considered and rejected by previous decision makers.

"It has no merit and is nothing more than yet another attempt to delay mining operations," the spokesperson said.

Community anxiety

New Hope Group said the move would create anxiety for the community and the mine's 100 employees who had recently returned to work after mining operations stopped in 2021.

An internal review by the Queensland Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water in March 2023 found the water licence had been granted in accordance with the law.

More than 100 people from Oakey are employed at the mine. (ABC News: Georgie Hewson)

A spokesman said as the matter was before the court, it would not make any further comment.

The mine is expected to produce its first coal shipment since being shut down by August.

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