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Mining boss will reopen $896M coal expansion ‘ASAP’

New Hope Group
New Hope Group

A resources executive expects to quickly revive a $896 million coal operation in Queensland’s Darling Downs region.

Rob Bishop predicts New Hope Group’s (NHG’s) New Acland Coal Stage 3 Expansion will urgently reopen sometime in the year 2023.

“I would like to think early next calendar year we could be in a position to be digging coal and getting it out there,” the chief executive said at a press conference.

“We will be in there as soon as possible.”

State Resources Minister Scott Stewart recently approved the project’s mining leases after 15 years of regulatory and legal delays. The development still requires an associated water licence from the State Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water before major work can begin.

Oakey Coal Action Alliance has already vowed to use judicial means to delay the project indefinitely. However, Bishop is confident the water licence will still be granted because the mine has operated for 20 years with no history of groundwater issues.

“We actually do not take water from the local area, we pay a significant amount of money to take recycled water from the Toowoomba Shire Council,” Bishop said.

“I refute anybody who says we have a negative impact on groundwater.”

Once the project secures a water licence the employer will invite back more than 600 former employees, contractors and suppliers. Local jobseekers and businesses will also be desirable.

“We will be supporting local jobs [and] we will be prioritising locals and local contractors – that is our priority,” Bishop said.

“A lot of them are farmers who subsidise their income through the mines. We are very excited that we will be approaching them soon to come and work for us [again].”

New Acland general manager Dave O’Dwyer revealed the 24/7 operation will initially require 400 employees, eventually increasing to 600 during the two-year construction phase.

“Those roles span across operators, maintainers, engineers, geologists, admin staff, safety professionals. There are all sorts of skills we will be looking for,” he said.

“We had no fly-in fly-out [or] drive-in drive-out [and] we did not provide camp accommodation. Everybody lived locally and commuted to work daily which we found was a really great, steady workforce.”

Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE) hopes former employees, who moved to other parts of the nation, will return to the Darling Downs.

“With the expansion project I would expect there is an opportunity to bring these workers home,” TSBE energy and new industries senior project manager Reagan Parle said.

State Member for Condamine Pat Weir applauded the proponent’s pledge to inject $1 billion into the local economy.

“All of the workers at this mine sleep in their own beds overnight. They drive in and drive out, so it is a boost for the whole region,” he said.

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) is “relieved” to see the project is one step closer to reopening.

“No resources project in Queensland history has been more scrutinised or assessed than New Acland Stage 3, so this is very welcome news for people in the Oakey district,” QRC CEO Ian Macfarlane said in a public statement.

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