New Acland Coal Mine agreement with Qld government a result of bullying, lawyer says

Written by Javed Iqbal

An environmental lawyer has accused the Queensland government of being “bullied” by failing to prosecute a coal company for alleged illegal mining in the south of the state.

New Hope Group and the Department of Environment and Science (DES) this week reached an agreement for the company to rehabilitate more than 100 acres of land following investigations into “alleged unauthorized disturbance” in an area known as the West Pit, at its New Acland Coal Mine near Oakey.

DES said the company had applied for the rehabilitation agreement as an alternative to enforcement measures.

Queensland barrister Chris McGrath has been involved in several cases involving the New Acland mine, and said, as part of the company’s mine approvals, that it was already required to rehabilitate the mine.

“I think this is an incredible result for New Hope, and they have succeeded in … bullying the Queensland government into effectively not doing anything for a major violation of our state’s environmental laws,” he said.

“It’s nothing. It’s like saying, ‘I want to meet the speed limit,’ and saying it’s a good thing.”

A satellite image of New Aclands West Pit from June 2020.
In the lower left corner is the West Pit, which is outside the original approval of the mine.(Available: Google Earth)

A ‘disappointing’ result

Oakey farmer Tanya Plant first raised concerns about mining in the West Pit during 2016, saying she was disappointed with the outcome.

“It certainly does not do much to restore people’s belief that the government is capable of enforcing the conditions,” she said.

“It was good that they finally did something, but it’s disappointing that they did not do more about it.”

She said people had become cynical after the company received small fines for noise breaches.

Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon has been contacted for comment.

Tanya Plant
Acland farmer Tanya Plant is among landowners opposed to Phase Three of the New Acland Coal Mine.(ABC News)

A DES spokesman said Thursday that the deal had put an end to extensive investigations into the case and would result in about 140 acres of land for conservation and koala habitat when mining ended at New Acland.

The mine’s general manager Dave O’Dwyer said its West Pit mining had been included in its plans.

“But DES challenged this as an accepted form of authorization,” he said.

Mine closure hits the city

More than 280 workers have been laid off from the mine since 2019, with only 20 employees left on site for care and maintenance.

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Javed Iqbal

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