A new research report from the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) has revealed that any move by the Queensland state government to approve the Acland coalmine expansion would represent an unprecedented and radical departure from recent tradition.
The Queensland Land Court recommended in May that the minister reject outright New Acland Coal’s (NAC) application to expand its coalmining operation. NAC then applied for a judicial review of the decision, but on June 23 Queensland’s Supreme Court rejected NAC’s bid.
According to the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) report, Acland refusal: weight of history falls on Queensland government, this is the first time in the past decade that the Queensland Land Court has recommended outright refusal of a mine expansion. During this time, the Queensland government has consistently followed the Court’s recommendations.
Given this history, it would be very unusual for the government to depart from a Land Court recommendation.
Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA), a group of more than 60 farmers and objectors who brought the court action, is urging the Queensland government to respect the Land Court’s decision and reject the mine expansion project.
OCAA’s Paul King said: “If the Queensland government truly respects the judicial process, which has methodically and carefully analysed evidence from experts and the community, it will do the right thing and accept the umpire’s decision which is to reject this destructive mining project.
“This project puts at risk some of the richest farming land in the state. It will rob us of precious water and create untenable noise and air pollution.”
EDO CEO Jo Bragg, who argued the Land Court case, said: “It would be inconsistent for the government to depart from a Land Court refusal recommendation, by approving the controversial Stage 3 expansion of New Acland.
“The Court’s rare outright refusal recommendation is testament to the high risks Stage 3 poses to the Acland farming community as proven in Court. Community objection rights in holding government and industry to account in the independent Land Court are crucial for major projects.”
Scarlett Squire from Lock the Gate said: “The proposed Acland expansion would result in the loss of more than 1300 hectares of prime strategic cropping land and cause drawdown in groundwater aquifers of up to 47 metres in some locations.
“Premier Palaszczuk and the Queensland government have spoken at length about the importance of fair and balanced state development which recognises the public interest. This is Minister Lynham’s opportunity to put words into action, uphold the rights of farmers and residents from the Acland community and reject the New Acland Stage 3 proposal in accordance with the Land Court decision.”