On 31 May 2017, in an unprecedented and historic decision, the Queensland Land Court recommended outright rejection of the New Acland Coal (NAC) Stage 3 mine expansion, after the most intense factual scrutiny ever applied by the Land Court to a mining project.
The decision followed one of the largest environmental cases in Australian history* where approximately 40 community objectors (12 active in Court) challenged the expansion of the mine by submitting evidence on threats to water, air quality and farming businesses
- Key findings in the historic decision (Plus 5-page extended document of key findings)
- 34-page summary decision (and full Queensland Land Court recommendation)
On 15 June 2017 NAC filed for judicial review of the Land Court’s decision, alleging the Member made numerous legal errors and had apprehended bias. (Read the following comment from our client). NAC also applied to stay (or hold) both the Land Court’s recommendation and the state government’s final decision making powers on the relevant approvals until the outcome of the judicial review.
On 23 June 2017, in another win for farmers, Queensland’s Supreme Court rejected New Acland’s bid to freeze the Land Court’s recommendation. (Read the following Media Release from our client).
On 17 July the Supreme Court joined the Chief Executive of the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection as a party to the proceeding and made directions orders that will see the parties prepare for a trial early in 2018. The matter will return for a review in December (on a date yet to be fixed) to ensure the parties have taken all necessary steps in preparation for trial.
EDO Qld represented Oakey Coal Action Alliance Inc (OCAA), a community group with more than 60 farmers and residents, in their challenge to the expansion of New Hope’s New Acland Coal mine in Queensland’s Darling Downs. Read about the farmers and residents impacted.
The case began on 7 March 2016 and ran until 5 October 2016 and was re-opened at New Hope’s request in April 2017 to submit further groundwater evidence. The final evidence was heard on Thursday 20 April 2017, which was day 99 of the hearing. See the rolling feed from the 99-day hearing.
During the case, evidence challenged various claims made by New Acland mine owners New Hope, exposing:
- Faulty groundwater modelling: The case showed faulty and unreliable groundwater modelling, potentially placing farmers’ critical groundwater supplies at risk.
- Noise and dust risks and complaints: Evidence showed there was a high risk of the project exceeding air quality limits unless so-far unproven controls were in place. The Court heard the community’s complaints about coal dust and noise levels and requests for data have fallen effectively on deaf ears for the past decade, including more than 100 complaints to New Hope and 30 to the state environment department.
- Over-inflated job figures: The project’s original environmental impact statement stated the project would produce an average of 2,953 jobs per annum, yet in court this figure was reduced to 680 net jobs nationally.
- Limited royalties to QLD government: In Court it was revealed an estimated $500M in royalties from the expansion would flow to the coal company and a small number of property owners, instead of to the Queensland Government which would receive just 7% of this, severely limiting financial benefits from royalties to taxpayers.
* The Land Court case involved approximately 40 community objectors (12 active in Court); 27 expert witnesses (eight of which were called by objectors); 38 lay witnesses; 14 active parties; 99 hearing days; two site inspections; 1,892 exhibits; and 7,452 pages of court transcripts – making it one of the largest environmental public interest cases in Australian history.
We need your support to continue to take on these David-and-Goliath legal battles.
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03 Apr 2017 – ‘Groundwater Evidence Re-Opens in Acland Case’