New Hope Group has slammed ‘unfathomable’ hold-ups over its New Acland Stage 3 coal mine plans after meeting with the State Government last week to present a roadmap to final approvals for the project.
If approved, the extension project would create more than 450 new jobs, generate $7 billion dollars for the State economy and protect thousands of jobs indirectly reliant on the mine, it says.
But Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham has reiterated the State Government’s position to await the conclusion of legal action.
It comes after a court decision in favour of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance early this month, which sees the Stage 3 plans for the Darling Downs region thermal coal operation headed for a High Court Appeal.
“The New Acland Stage 3 project has received significant community interest and has a protracted legal history,” Dr Lynham said.
“The government’s position on the New Acland Coal Mine expansion has been consistent since our commitment before the 2017 election: to accept the decision of the courts.
“We will await the outcome of the High Court process before finalising the remaining approvals for this project.”
But New Hope says the Oakey Coal Action Alliance case is not challenging findings on groundwater or any other environmental issue that is relevant to any decision being made by the State Government.
New Hope chief operations officer Andrew Boyd said the company was baffled by the government’s position.
“With the Downs community in the grip of the worst unemployment in the country and the state facing a post COVID-19 economic disaster there has never been a better time to approve Stage 3,” he said.
“The Premier is making a big deal of projects in other regions that may generate jobs 5 or 10 years down the track.
“Acland Stage 3 is shovel ready and can provide long term jobs now and into the future in a region that is on its knees.
“It is unfathomable that the Premier is willing not only to ignore the hundreds looking for work but also the 150 workers currently at the mine who will be out of work if the project is not approved soon.”
Mr Boyd said even the Federal Senate understood the importance of jobs at Acland, passing a motion last week calling on the State Government to approve the project.
“The motion was moved by Queensland Liberal and National Senators and was passed, notably, with the support of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation,” Mr Boyd said.
Mr Boyd said the Queensland Government had all information before it to make the necessary decisions.
“If we don’t have certainty of approvals there will be further redundancies as we continue to ramp down activities at the site,” he said.
“Surely this is the last thing the Premier needs as the State claws its way out of the economic mess created by COVID-19.”