The coal miners’ union has called on the State Government to immediately declare the New Acland mine expansion a ‘prescribed project’, as hundreds of jobs hang in the balance.
Continuing delays to the project had frustrated workers and held back the local economy in the Toowoomba region, CFMEU Mining & Energy Division Queensland District vice-president Shane Brunker said.
“The Queensland Government’s procrastination is another example of how out of touch Labor is with regional Queensland and its traditional voter base,” he said.
“I thought since the Federal election results this Government would appreciate the need to re-engage with regional Queensland.”
A ministerial media spokesman said the Palaszczuk Government was working as quickly as possible on the relevant approvals for the New Acland project.
“Should any delays in approvals be encountered, the government can consider applying prescribed project status,” he said.
Plans for the $896 million Stage 3 expansion project at the New Acland open-cut coal mine have made it through two rounds of Land Court challenges.
New Hope Group was granted the State environmental approvals for the work in March, but is still awaiting its mining lease and associated water licence.
A complication is the condition that the Jondaryn rail load-out facility be shifted onto the mining lease – away from the town – as part of the expansion plans.
New Hope has delayed this investment while uncertainty has surrounded the project proceeding and is seeking a relaxation so that it could be completed within two and a half years of gaining the required approvals for expansion.
A company spokesman said today that gaining prescribed project status, putting many of the processes in the hands of the State’s Co-ordinator General, would certainly help get the project underway and may help avoid further drawn-out legal challenges.
Time is ticking. By the end of November the company will be quickly running out of resources at New Acland.
Without permission for the Stage 3 expansion it will be parking up half of its fleet and that means preparing about 150 full-time employees for redundancy within the next three months.
A company spokesman said that meant at least half of the 500 contractors at the site would have to go and the flow-on effect to the local economy would be far-reaching.
“We need approvals by the start of September (to avoid those consequences),” he said. “If we don’t get approvals at all the mine will close altogether in early 2021.”
A delay in approvals would mean losing many people from the local region and losing some of skills required for the thin seam coal extraction at the New Acland site, the spokesman said.