SURFACE

New Acland remains hopeful on expansion plans

IT APPEARS there is some hope for New Hope’s New Acland mine being able to go ahead with its Stage 3 expansion, even as the mine comes close to being played out.

 New Hope's New Acland mine in Queensland.

New Hope's New Acland mine in Queensland.

The company is awaiting a Land Court hearing over its Stage 3 approvals.

New Hope chief financial officer Rob Bishop said production was down 39% as the existing mining area was exhausted and the site began to transition into care and maintenance in the coming months.

"Focus is moving from production to rehabilitation works while maintaining site readiness for Stage 3 operations," he said in a company presentation.

"The Land Court hearing for Stage 3 approvals is scheduled for November 2021.

"The company remains positive about the future of Stage 3 that will support jobs and provide a critical investment into the local community."

The New Acland Stage 3 project is expected to create 450 jobs and pump $7 billion into the state economy.

A revised application to expand the mine was first rejected by the Queensland government in 2018 following a recommendation of refusal by the Land Court in 2017.

The mining company appealed the 2017 Land Court recommendation to the Supreme Court which, in 2018, found parts of the recommendation to be in error.

The Supreme Court ordered the Land Court to rehear the case, but bound by most of the original findings from 2017.

In November 2018 a reconstituted Land Court recommended the project be approved and in 2019 the environmental approval was granted.

Further appeals to the Court of Appeal in 2019 then also found the 2017 Land Court decision to be affected by apprehended bias but did not order a fresh hearing.

The Court of Appeal decision caused doubts regarding the validity of the 2018 Land Court decision, which relied heavily on the 2017 Land Court decision that had been found to have been affected by apprehended bias.

Oakey Coal Action Alliance appealed to the High Court, with leave, in 2020 arguing that it should have been afforded a fresh hearing, unconstrained by the earlier 2017 decision found to be affected by bias.

The High Court allowed the appeal and ordered a fresh hearing in the Land Court.

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