Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Joe Hinchliffe

Queensland resources minister approves expansion of New Acland coalmine

The New Acland coalmine is seen behind abandoned fields
New Hope exhausted its last coal reserves at the New Acland mine last November, but approval would extend its life for 12 years to 2034. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP

A mothballed thermal coalmine on some of Australia’s richest agricultural soil is preparing to revive operations after taking a major step towards gaining final government approval.

Queensland’s resources minister, Scott Stewart, announced the expansion of New Acland in a two-line release issued Friday afternoon, saying he was approving New Hope Group’s mining leases for stage three of the open cut mine “after careful consideration”.

The project still requires a water licence.

Stage three would revive the mothballed mine near the town of Oakey, north-west of Toowoomba, and lift its output from 4.8m tonnes to 7.8m tonnes a year. New Hope exhausted its last coal reserves at the mine in late November, but approval would extend its life for 12 years to 2034.

The New Acland expansion was granted environmental approval in late June.

New Hope responded to Friday’s announcement with a statement to the stock market saying it had “begun preparations for resumption of mining operations”.

The company said it “continues to work collaboratively with representatives from the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water in anticipation of the grant of the associated water licence”.

The company’s chair, Robert Millner, said the mine “remains at risk of ongoing delays caused by objectors utilising the court system to engage in ‘lawfare’ to slow down the approval process”.

The mine has been the target of a decade-long campaign by environmentalists and farmers, who responded with dismay and defiance to Friday’s news.

The Oakey Coal Action Alliance’s secretary, Paul King, said landowners “won’t let the matter rest” despite the “disturbing” news.

“We’ll take every step that we can take to ensure this mine never goes ahead, regardless of this approval,” he said.

“There are other obstacles that this mine needs to overcome.”

King said Stewart “wasn’t considering the livelihoods of farmers” or the long-term prospects of Acland “as a farming district rather than the mining district”.

“This is a missed opportunity to send a message,” he said. “It’s out of step with current thinking.”

The mine has been under investigation since 2018 over “alleged unauthorised disturbance” in an area known as west pit.

But days before it was given environmental approval, the Queensland government announced it had accepted an environmental undertaking proposed by New Hope Group, which would see them commit $2m to habitat rehabilitation to avoid the matter going to court.

On Friday the state opposition’s resources spokesperson, Pat Weir, whose electorate of Condamine encompasses the mine, said the expansion should have been rubber stamped years ago”.

Weir said the Palaszczuk government had been “embarrassed” and “forced” into approving the project mine.

The Greens MP for Maiwar, Michael Berkman, took to Twitter to criticise “the cowards in the Labor” state government who had “bowed to LNP” and “News Corp pressure”.

“These cowardly hypocrites clearly don’t care about climate, the farmers or the future of [Queensland] coal communities,” Berkman wrote. “Shame on [Queensland] Labor.”

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.