Last Updated: December 1, 2016

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New evidence highlights uncertainty of groundwater impacts of Acland Stage 3 coal mine

12 May 2016

Today the objection by the Oakey Coal Action Alliance against the New Acland Coal Mine Stage 3 expansion continues to be heard in the Queensland Land Court. The length of proceedings are stretching out due to a controversial decision, as the court has allowed New Acland Coal (NAC) to have an additional new groundwater expert witness as NAC tries to bolster the company’s previous witnesses.

This morning Saul Holt QC cross-examined existing groundwater witness for NAC, Mr Andrew Durick on behalf of EDO Qld’s client Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA). Mr Holt later will examine the additional new groundwater witness for NAC, Mr Brian Barnett.

Ms Jo Bragg, CEO and Solicitor for EDO Qld said, “It is unconventional and simply unfair for New Acland Coal to be given permission to have an extra groundwater witness, giving the company two bites at the cherry.

“New Acland Coal is attempting to bolster their evidence on groundwater because their first two witnesses on groundwater modelling and groundwater data did not inspire confidence.

“The key issue remains the risk of faulting on the predicted drawdown of groundwater and impacts on local water users.

Mr Frank Ashman, Beef Cattle Stud Grazier and President of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance said, “What we have heard during cross-examination of New Acland Coal’s water experts gave us no confidence that our precious water will not be impacted. There are so many errors coming out in that modelling. In fact the new groundwater models are alarmingly inconsistent, creating greater concern around the soundness of the company’s water modelling.

“Farmers objecting to this project have grave concerns about  destruction of groundwater. We simply can’t afford to risk groundwater, otherwise our businesses are worthless.

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High quality photos of Frank Ashman available on request.

A comprehensive MEDIA EXPLAINER is available online <LINK>. Environmental Defenders Office Queensland has also released a series of CASE STUDIES on farmers involved in the case <LINK> and our latest MEDIA RELEASE on the case regarding overinflated job figures and royalties <LINK>.

BACKGROUND TO CASE

Find here a detailed overview of the case. In short:

  • Many from the local and broader community are vehemently opposed to the expansion by New Acland Coal, as is evidenced by the unprecedented roll call of 30 community objectors plus a local community group of more than 60 members, the Oakey Coal Action Alliance of QCAA (who is represented by EDO Qld). All of the objectors are challenging the mine in the QLD Land Court (10 week case began 7 March).
  • The existing mine has caused extensive hardship, damaged community members’ physical and mental health and livelihoods, and eroded the once-thriving and cohesive rural community, in existence since the 19th century. Objectors fear any further expansion would be an unsustainable blow to the community and the region.
  • The mine expansion, known as Stage 3, will see an increase in the annual production of coal from 5.2 to 7.5 million tonnes for just 12 years to 2029 – but potentially will leave a legacy of major ongoing impacts to the health of residents and integrity of the community, productive food-growing farmland, and vital water resources. Oakey Coal Action Alliance is arguing that the expansion will permanently disturb over 1,361 hectares (13.61km2) of prime agricultural country identified by the government as ‘strategic cropping land’. It will potentially drop groundwater levels up to 47 metres on the mine site and one metre or more across a 21 kilometre wide area around the site; and seriously degrade air and noise quality in the area. This further threatens the health of local residents, some who are already suffering the impacts of coal dust from the current operation.

Frank Ashman, farmer and President of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance. You can read a profile of Frank and his experience of the existing mine’s impact on his life and business here. Frank and his wife, Lynn invested a great deal of money, time and effort to set up their beef cattle stud enterprise on Shannonbrook and Landmore properties at Brymaroo.

Frank says the uncertainties created by the bid to expand the mine have made him afraid to invest any more money into his business. “The proposed mine expansion risks our water, and without water our farm is finished,” he says. “I have witnessed impacts on the community, and in my experience there are a number of people who are clearly struggling with the impacts of the current mine and the proposed Stage 3 expansion.”

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