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Three quarters of coal producer’s workforce face the axe

New Hope Group workers
New Hope Group workers

A diversified energy company could lose up to three quarters of its southeast Queensland employees due to anti-coal activism.

New Hope Corporation will implement a major company restructure that could make up to 75 per cent of its Brisbane corporate team redundant at the end of November 2020. QMEB can reveal the redundancies will mostly affect executive positions.

Frivolous litigation blamed

The decision came after Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) repeatedly used the judicial system to postpone the New Acland Coal Expansion, 53km northwest of Toowoomba.

Twelve years of delays and dwindling coal production have taken a toll, with 14 per cent of the existing workforce of 150 already made redundant. The remaining 150+ employees are working nine days a fortnight and received 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.

Some of the most noteworthy departures included CEO Shane Stephan and more recently CFO Matthew Busch. They were replaced by former Yancoal Australia CEO Reinhold Schmidt and acting CFO Rob Bishop respectively.

‘Extremely difficult decisions’

“With the ongoing uncertainty around approvals for New Acland we have had to refocus and put the business in the best position to go forward,” Schmidt said in a public statement.

“We have had to make some extremely difficult decisions.”

State Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington promised anti-mining lawsuits would not stop her, as premier, from prioritising final approval for the project if the Liberal National Party (LNP) wins the October 31 election.

“There is no reason why [incumbent Labor Premier] Annastacia Palaszczuk should not have approved this mine,” Frecklington said according to News Limited.

“She has completely hoodwinked Queenslanders … and that is exactly why I am happy to stand here today and say a future LNP government will approve this mine.”

‘Tough couple of years’

New Hope doubts further redundancies can be avoided, even if the project is approved immediately after Election Day.

“In reality, even if we were granted approvals for Stage 3 today, we are in for a tough couple of years as we ramp up again,” Schmidt said.

The proponent is now trying to liquidate OCAA because activists are unable to pay for nearly $737,000 in unpaid legal expenses that the Queensland Court of Appeal awarded back in 2019.

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

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