Regulatory inaction has forced a coal producer to retrench several workers from its $896 million mine expansion in Queensland’s Darling Downs region.
The State Government’s decision to allow anti-mining activists to keep using the legal system to indefinitely stall New Hope Group (NHG) has delivered a heavy blow to mine workers who were supposed to start work at the New Acland Coal Expansion, 53km northwest of Toowoomba.
23 jobs lost with more to go
NHG confirmed the 12-year wait for state approval has forced the proponent to axe nearly two dozen jobs and reduce wages for the remaining staff across its Queensland Bulk Handling (QBH) and corporate locations.
“In total, 23 employees were made redundant and the remaining workforce at corporate, QBH, West Moreton, Burton and Bridgeport moved to a nine-day fortnight and took a 10 per cent reduction in pay as of 1 July,” the company said in its quarterly report. “QBH workers [were the biggest losers since they] took a decrease of almost 30 per cent in their salary.”
The High Court of Australia granted the Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) special leave to appeal orders from the Queensland Court of Appeal on June 5. That appeal is scheduled for October 6, meaning NHG will struggle to stay open and have to consider letting even more staff go in the New Year.
“The Queensland Government’s inaction will result in further job losses at New Acland in September as coal reserves in the existing mining lease area are exhausted,” the company said. “Unfortunately, a further 25 permanent jobs will be made redundant in quarter one of the 2021 financial year.”
Activists face liquidation
OCAA owes the proponent nearly $737,000 in unpaid legal expenses, which the Queensland Court of Appeal awarded back in 2019. 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.
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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.
Once the High Court has handed down its ruling, the proponent will theoretically be cleared to continue dissolving OCAA.