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Anti-coal activists use courts to stall $896M expansion

Oakey Coal Action Alliance
Oakey Coal Action Alliance

Anti-mining protestors are using the nation’s judicial system to block an $896 million coal project from proceeding, causing significant job losses in southern Queensland.

The Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) has sought special leave to appeal for the High Court to consider stopping New Hope Group’s (NHG’s) New Acland Coal Expansion, 53 km northwest of Toowoomba in the Darling Downs.

Activists ‘won’

“We won,” OCAA secretary Paul King said on Facebook. “OCAA has special leave in the High Court. [There are] only a few more steps to go before victory is total. We are on a roll, start rehabilitating those pits, New Hope.”

The legal action is the latest in a series of stunts that date back to around the time NHG first applied for regulatory approval more than 12 years ago. OCAA accuses the expansion of threatening the water supply and community as a whole.

450+ jobs at stake

However, the proponent believes the Queensland Government should deliver on its promise to grant all remaining approvals, and let the expansion create 450 new jobs that would provide industry a welcome reprieve during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

NHG, which has already retrenched more than 100 mine workers, has requested meetings with State Government officials to try to secure a commitment to the project.

“In November 2018 the Land Court recommended grant of the project’s mining lease (ML) and environmental authority (EA),” NHG chief operating officer Andrew Boyd said in a public statement.

“In March 2019 the government granted the project its EA and we see no reason why the government cannot also grant the outstanding ML and associated water licence … by acting now, the government will not only protect the current 150 jobs at New Acland but will allow us to get moving on stage three and create more than 450 new jobs and pump $7 billion into the state economy.”

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The High Court will hold a full hearing later in the year and decide whether to grant the activists another opportunity to state their case in the Land Court of Queensland.

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