By HARRY CLARKE
FIFTEEN years after New Hope Group first sought approval for the expansion of its open cut coal mine at Acland near Oakey on Queensland’s Darling Downs, the state government approved the company’s mining lease.
In a statement released this afternoon Resources Minister Scott Stewart said “after careful consideration I have approved the mining leases for stage three of the New Acland project.”
“The project also requires an associated water licence from the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water.”
The major development comes after the Land Court in January recommended the state government granted New Hope’s application to expand into Stage 3 of the $900 million Acland project.
The decision follows more than a decade of litigation, including in the High Court, as the project was challenged by environmentalist and landholders concerned over the mine’s impacts on groundwater.
New Hope general manager Dave O’Dwyer said the “historic” development followed eight months of consultation between the company and key stakeholders, and meant that Water Minister Glen Butcher “can now grant” the associated water licence.
“The granting of New Acland Stage 3’s Mining Leases is a watershed moment in the long running approvals process,” O’Dwyer said.
“Minister Stewart’s decision to grant New Acland Stage 3 its Mining Leases is proof the Queensland Government believes the project makes sense environmentally, socially and financially.”
In a statement to shareholders the company said it had begun preparations to resume mining operations and that the State Government approval was “very welcome and long awaited news”.
“New Hope and the local communities around Acland and Oakey are now only one step away from restarting the New Acland mine where there has been mining activity for over 100 years,” said New Hope chair, Robert Millner.
“New Acland Stage 3 stacks up environmentally, socially and financially and is consistent with and delivers on the recently released and extensive Queensland Government Resources Industry Development Plan.”
“Unfortunately after 15 years of seeking approvals, New Hope remains at risk of ongoing delays caused by objectors utilising the court system to engage in ‘lawfare’ to slow down the approval process, regardless of the merits.
“We are hopeful that the Queensland Government can see a way to finally approve New Acland State 3 with certainty to secure jobs in the region and significant economic benefits for Queensland.”