The High Court has dealt New Hope Group’s New Acland Stage 3 expansion plans a blow with a decision today which will see the coal miner back in the Land Court.
New Hope said it was seeking an urgent meeting with the State Government to secure a commitment on the outstanding approvals for the Darling Downs mine expansion – with hundreds of jobs in the balance.
Acting premier Steven Miles, speaking at a media conference in Brisbane, said the government would be guided by the outcome of the court process.
The High Court found in favour of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance, who have been battling the Stage 3 plan, and upheld an appeal in relation to a Queensland Court of Appeal decision.
It ordered that the mining lease applications and environmental authority application be remitted to the Land Court for reconsideration, and New Hope was required to pay costs of proceedings.
New Hope Group chief executive officer Reinhold Schmidt said while the High Court outcome was disappointing it had nothing to do with the strength of the Stage 3 application.
“We know, from discussions with various government departments, they have all the information they need to brief the Minister on the outstanding approvals,” Mr Schmidt said.
“What we need from the government is a roadmap for how we get the project up and running, because more delays equates to more job losses.
“It’s no secret that the state needs these jobs and the government must make a quick decision on the future of the project so we can have some certainty.”
Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt backed the calls for action, saying the situation was a classic example of the Queensland approval process allowing activists to use the courts and legal system to delay legitimate resources projects.
“It is extremely frustrating for the many workers trying to plan their lives around the mine’s future who are now back to square one,” he said.
Oakey Coal Action Alliance secretary Paul King said the result was a win on all counts.
“It is a better outcome than we could have hoped for,” he said. “We have won on all counts and New Hope has been ordered to pay costs to the High Court.
“The High Court’s decision is, in our view, vindication that the Darling Downs is for farming – not coal mining.”