‘We’re optimistic’: Mine owner hopes for imminent decision
THE owners of the controversial New Acland Coal Mine are hopeful they will have a decision from the State Government on the expansion of the mine by tomorrow, if not early next week.
Speaking at a media conference yesterday, New Hope Group chief development officer Ben Armitage said the recent orders from the Court of Appeal were clear and that the Queensland Government "now has the ability and a clear path to award us our approvals".
Based off discussions with State Government representatives on Wednesday, Mr Armitage said he had been told the government's legal people had reviewed the orders, "and they don't believe there's any impediment standing in the way (of the expansion) now".
"We believe cabinet is going to meet (this afternoon) and that this will be on the agenda," he said.
"We're optimistic that we will get a result out of them over the course of the next, if not Friday, early next week."
The mine's 12-year fight for approvals came to an important junction in early September, after a protracted legal fight with the Oakey Coal Action Alliance over the mine's approvals.
The Queensland Court of Appeal handed down a judgment that dismissed both grounds of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance's appeal, and found a 2017 Land Court decision recommending against the expansion of the mine was infected with an apprehension of bias.
The court made orders last Friday that the project did not need to return to the Land Court, clearing the way for Natural Resources, Mines, and Energy Minister Anthony Lynham to make a decision on the mine's mining lease and associated water licence.
The mine is also awaiting approval for continued use of its Jondaryan rail facility.
Oakey Coal Action Alliance secretary Paul King said it was "very worrying to see New Hope talking about confidential cabinet processes in the media".
"We're calling on the Palaszczuk Government to assure us urgently there is a proper unbiased process under way and that the government will not make a decision until our appeal period to take the matter to the High Court has passed," he said.
He also said the government should not make any decision on Acland's approvals while the mine was being investigated in relation to allegations of illegal mining.
The company has denied the allegations.
As well as meeting with State Government representatives on Wednesday, Mr Armitage said he'd met with the Co-ordinator General's office and that New Acland Coal Mine had applied for the Stage 3 expansion to become a prescribed project.
Mr King also said the OCAA was "very concerned" at the suggestion the expansion could become a prescribed project.
The Court of Appeal's final orders came too late for 150 workers, the last of which were made redundant last week.
But Mr Armitage said the company would be happy to rehire them if they were granted their approvals.
Oakey's Vicki Reeves, director of local business Great Country Pies, said there had been a lot of negativity and uncertainty in the town following the announcement of the redundancies and that she had noticed a slowdown in business and in town in general.