New Acland coalmine: Queensland farmers win reprieve in battle to stop expansion

Queensland farmers have been given a reprieve by the nation’s highest court in their decade-long battle to stop a coalmine expansion.

But the company behind the controversial stage-three expansion of the New Acland coalmine says there is nothing stopping the state government from giving approvals for the project to go ahead.

Graziers with the Oakey Coal Action Alliance sought special leave to appeal to the high court over the project they claim threatens their Darling Downs community and water supply.

The high court on Friday agreed to consider the matter. It will now determine if a fresh hearing on the proposed mine expansion should be ordered. 

If the new hearing is granted, it will be held in the land court.

Alliance secretary Paul King said graziers welcomed the decision, which follows a 13-year struggle against a proposed third stage of the mine. “It gives them renewed hope for their future,” he said.

Ellie Smith, from campaign group the Lock the Gate Alliance, said if the mine expansion went ahead it would destroy more than 1300 hectares of cropping land and drain 365 water bores. She accused New Hope of trying to bully the Palaszczuk government into approving the expansion.

“The Oakey community has fought this battle with heart and soul for more than a decade now, and we will continue to fight with them until the very last avenue to stop this destructive coalmine is extinguished,” she said.

But mining company New Hope Group said it would meet with the Queensland government within days to ask for outstanding approvals for the project to be granted.

Its chief operating officer, Andrew Boyd, said a previous land court hearing in November 2018 recommended the government grant approvals.

“In March 2019 the government granted the project its environmental authority and we see no reason why the government can’t also grant the outstanding mining leases and associated water licence,” Boyd said in a statement.