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Anti-coal group faces liquidation after meddling with $896M project

Oakey Coal Action Alliance
Oakey Coal Action Alliance

An anti-mining organisation could pay the ultimate price postponing an $896 million mine expansion for more than a decade.

New Hope Group (NHG) is pursuing the Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) for nearly $737,000 in unpaid legal expenses, which the Queensland Court of Appeal awarded back in 2019.

Unable to pay

Since the activists appear to be unable to pay the amount, the proponent is urging the Brisbane Supreme Court to liquidate OCAA and use proceeds from asset sales to help recover the money.

However, Justice Peter Davis discovered the group did not appear to have any declared assets to sell, and even found OCAA could have already financially collapsed.

Davis decided to postpone the matter until the High Court separately decides whether NHG should be allowed to proceed with its New Acland Coal Expansion, 53km northwest of Toowoomba in the Darling Downs.

“The application to wind up the respondent is adjourned to a date to be fixed after determination by the High Court of Australia of the appeal against the orders of the Court of Appeal made in OCAA versus New Acland Coal,” the judge said in his decision.

‘Open season’

Once the High Court has handed down its ruling, the proponent will theoretically be cleared to continue dissolving OCAA.

Activists appeared to be completely unaware of their looming insolvency.

“NHG have lost a second bid to wind OCAA up and keep the High Court from possibly overturning their show [and] nothing can stop us now,” OCAA secretary Paul King said on Facebook.

12-year wait

NHG first applied for regulatory approval more than 12 years ago but OCAA has repeatedly used the judicial system to postpone the project for years.

Delays and dwindling coal production have taken a toll, with 14 per cent of the existing workforce of 150 made redundant. The remaining 150+ employees will work nine days a fortnight and receive a pay cut ranging between 10 and 30 per cent. This came following another 100 layoffs at the mine site that were announced back in September 2019.

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One of the most surprising departures was that of outgoing CEO Shane Stephan and more recently CFO Matthew Busch. They will be replaced by incoming former Yancoal Australia CEO Reinhold Schmidt, and acting CFO Rob Bishop respectively.

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