Hardworking farmers and community members of the agriculturally-rich Darling Downs region will be back into court this week, to once again defend the future of their livelihoods.
Following a request from coal giant New Acland Coal to submit further evidence relating to groundwater and the expansion of their Acland mine, the historic Queensland Land Court case has been re-opened.
EDO Qld represented Oakey Coal Action Alliance, a local farming and community group of more than 60 members, who were one of the community objectors in the case which ran from 7 March to 7 October last year. Now, it will be re-opened from 3 April for a further 5 days to hear new groundwater evidence from the parties’ experts.
“To be clear, the re-opening of the case was at the request of New Acland Coal and not our client. EDO Qld respects the Land Court decision to reopen evidence,” EDO Qld CEO Jo-Anne Bragg said.
Ms Bragg said during the previous 84 hearing days of 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.
Local objector and representative of OCCA Aileen Harrison (pictured, below) said she had four points.
“One.There is no life without water. Nothing can survive without water. Our farms cannot survive without water. We cannot survive without water. If the mine goes ahead it will cut through the aquifers and risk our bores drying up. If we have no farms, what will we eat and what will our children eat? We need to look after our future for our children and grandchildren. Long after the mine is gone, the farms will still be around.
“Two.There are no certain alternatives to supply water. This risky mine should not go ahead.
“Three.What happens when mining is over in a short 12 years? Mining is short term but if it destroys our water, it will kill off farming that could continue otherwise for hundreds of years.We need water for our food bowl now and in the future.
“Four. The dust and noise from the mine affected my families’ health. If it is expanded, how many families will be affected, including children? How can anyone agree with that?”
A judgment might be delivered during the case or expected at anytime within the next three to six months.