03 FEBRUARY 2017
Despite final submissions in the case in early October 2016, on 19 December New Acland Coal applied to have new advice of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) admitted into evidence for the Land Court to consider. The IESC was established by the Federal Government to provide scientific advice to decision makers on the impact that coal seam gas and large coal mining development may have on Australia’s water resources. Two previous IESC advices to the Federal Department of the Environment (in 2014 and 2015), which outlined concerns with New Acland’s assessment of water impacts from the proposed mine expansion, had featured extensively during groundwater evidence in the case.
On 18 January 2017, the Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy approved the mine expansion under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. In his statement of reasons for the decision, the Minister said he relied on the IESC’s recent advice that “…most matters raised in the 10 December 2015 advice have been addressed” and that residual matters are fully addressed by the conditions of approval.
Given the direct relevance to evidence in the hearing, yesterday the Land Court granted NAC’s application to reopen the case. However, this was only on the basis argued by OCAA and other objectors that further evidence from experts should also be allowed with respect to the IESC advice. The Court also ordered NAC to provide the parties with additional NAC reports that the IESC had relied on for its recent advice. These reports are now publically available from the Department of the Environment as a result of a freedom of information request by OCAA – see the Department’s 2017 disclosure log with FOI Reference 161207.
OCAA and other objectors are required to provide any supplementary evidence and reports by 10 March 2017. The hearing of further evidence will then recommence on 3 April 2017.
It takes commitment, skill and sheer hard work for rural folk to win in Court against an open cut coal mine expansion. We urgently need your help to raise $20K to get our legal team back in motion to prepare for the further final hearing with groundwater experts in April.
To make a donation to the case visit www.edoqld.org.au/aclanddonation
07 OCTOBER 2016
Environmental Defenders Office Qld represented Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA), a community group with more than 60 farmers and residents, in the hearing that first began its evidence on 7 March 2016. Read about the farmers here.
After 84 hearing days, evidence for the landmark public interest case objecting to New Hope’s controversial New Acland Coal mine expansion came to an end in Queensland’s Land Court on 7 October 2016.
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 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 challenge involved approximately: 40 individual objectors (on 35 objection forms, three of which were withdrawn); 27 expert witnesses (eight of which were called by objectors); 38 lay witnesses; 14 active parties; 84 hearing days; two site inspections; 1,892 exhibits; and 7,452 pages of court transcripts. The size of this court case and number of objectors largely reflects the detrimental effects this mine has already had on locals, who have suffered the impacts for over a decade.
Jo-Anne Bragg, CEO of EDO Qld said: “ Farmers and local residents are passionate about stopping this controversial mine expansion as they believe it will rip the heart out of their community, risk precious groundwater and make their children’s economic future precarious.
“The case showed up in stark relief problems everyday people face in gaining access to justice, with community objectors lacking the financial resources of big miners and struggling to adequately prepare, in the timeframes set, for what was an intense, complex and lengthy trial,” she said.
- Stories of affected residents
- EDO Qld Media Release, 07 March 2016 – ‘Landmark Qld Land Court Hearing Begins: Farmers Challenge New Acland Coal Mine Expansion’
- OCAA Media Release, 07 March 2016 – ‘Qld Land Court Hearings Begin: Farmers Challenge New Acland Coal Mine Expansion’
- EDO Qld Media Release, 01 April 2016, – ‘In Court: Economist for Acland coal mine admits inflated job figures’
- EDO Qld Media Release, 12 May 2016 – ‘New evidence highlights uncertainty of groundwater impacts of Acland Stage 3 coal mine’
- EDO Qld Media Release, 23 June 2016 – ‘Acland mine dust modelling riddled with problems, expansion risks exceeding air quality limits’
- EDO Qld Media Release, 05 October 2016 – ‘ACLAND COURT CASE CLOSES: Water, air quality and farming at risk’