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Court dismisses anti coal appeal and orders activists to pay legal fees

New Hope Group workers
New Hope Group workers

Queensland judges have rejected an anti mining group’s bid to use the legal system to stop an $896 million coal project from proceeding in the Darling Downs region.

Court of Appeal justices Martin Burns, Anthe Philippides and Walter Sofronoff dismissed Oakey Coal Action Alliance’s appeal against the State Government granting an environmental authority to New Hope Group’s (NHG’s) New Acland Coal Mine Stage 3 Project, 35km northwest of Toowoomba.

Activists pick up the bill

The judges demanded that activists pay all legal expenses the proponent incurred.

“The appeal is dismissed,” the court ruled on 1 November 2019. “The appellant shall pay the first respondent’s costs of the appeal and the cross-appeal [and] the proceedings before justice Helen Bowskill.”

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‘Procedural fairness’ questioned

They also blasted retired judge Paul Smith for failing to uphold “procedural fairness”.

“In making the recommendations in New Acland Coal Pty Ltd v Ashman & Ors and the chief executive, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (No. 4), the third respondent failed to observe the requirements of procedural fairness,” Burns, Philippides and Sofronoff said.

NHG confirmed there are no longer any barriers to the project receiving final approval, which will help provide job security to some mine staff who finished up work due to a lack of stockpiled coal.

“This is good news for the company and the local community in which the project is located,” the proponent said in a public statement. “Obtaining final approval as soon as possible is critical to ensuring the continuity of operations and will not only provide certainly for the current workforce but help create approximately 400 new jobs in the region.”

Project can proceed

The company is now asking the government to immediately grant the required mining leases, associated water licence and approval required to keep using the Jondaryan Loadout Facility. The project is expected to have a lifespan of 15 years.

Even though the alliance will be left out of pocket from the legal fees, it vowed to keep fighting against the project on other grounds.

“NAC will continue to get permission to dig up the best farmland in the state but we will fight them because to us it is more valuable than gold,” alliance secretary Paul King said on Facebook. “NAC started this lawfare in the Supreme Court but we will finish it on whichever field we find ourselves.”

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