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Employer will rehire axed workers at delayed $896M coal expansion

New Hope Group
New Hope Group

A mineral producer promised to reinstate hundreds of retrenched employees if a $896 million coal project is approved in Queensland’s Darling Downs region.

New Hope Group (NHG) hopes Toni Power will give her blessing for the New Acland Coal Stage 3 Expansion, 53km northwest of Toowoomba.

The state coordinator general recently issued a change report that details what conditions must be incorporated in the project’s environmental authority (EA).

The Queensland Department of Environment and Science will add these conditions and issue the EA. The proponent will then be granted mining leases and an associated water licence.

“This historic development is a green-light for finalisation of the approvals process and means we can now focus more on plans to reopen the mine and recruit our workforce,” NHG CEO Rob Bishop said in a public statement.

“Local workers, contractors and local businesses will benefit to the tune of $1 billion over the life of the project.”

Management wants to rehire up to 300 former workers who lost their jobs due to 15 years of delays from both regulators and the judicial system. The mine suspended operations during November 2021.

“If the process follows on and we get approval we can look at reemploying people again onsite, getting the business up and running,” New Acland coal handling and preparation plant and maintenance manager Andy Scouller told reporters.

“We are a close-knit group and I have kept in contact with a lot of our former employees, and a lot of them have expressed interest in coming back. A lot of them have moved on to other jobs, some of them are doing fly-in fly-out but they are keen to get back to it.”

Since the mine will require a workforce of 600 during peak construction this will eventually create new employment opportunities for locals and inexperienced jobseekers.

“We have an opportunity to bring in people from outside the mining industry as well to give them a chance of employment in the mining game,” Scouller said.

“If you have got a good tradesman, who knows their game, they can fit in very quickly.”

NHG expects to train new recruits for between six to 12 months before completely restarting mine operations.

“It will be a big job training-up the new workforce, it will not happen overnight,” Scouller said.

“Finding employees is difficult but we will give it our best shot … it is a challenge we look forward to. I would much rather be putting on people than putting them off, because putting them off is pretty s**t.”

Labor State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk promised not to interfere with the approval process.

“Of course normal processes will be followed, just as they are with any other application,” she said according to the Australian Associated Press.

“I do not get involved in those decisions, nor should I.”

State Member for Toowoomba North Trevor Watts and 18 other Liberal National Party politicians previously sent a joint letter to Palaszczuk, asking for the project to be approved back in 2021.

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