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Activists win right to take Acland mine to High Court


The High Court has dealt another blow to New Hope Group’s Acland coal mine expansion plans after it granted special leave to appeal judgments made in the Queensland courts.


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The decision sent New Hope’s shares tumbling 3 per cent in early trade after a strong rise earlier in the week.

The decision means that the company’s 12-year struggle to get mine approval will be extended even further because the State Government will not grant any final approvals until the project has cleared its legal hurdles.

The fight has split the community at the nearby town of Oakey which has relied on the mine for jobs.

Writing in The Conversation, Associate professor Justine Bell-James from the University of Queensland’s TC Beirne School of Law said the ruling would have ramifications for the law of apprehended bias.

The High Court appeal revolves around a decision in the Land Court from Paul Smith that recommended against the mine on groundwater modelling inadequacies, make-good arrangements for landholders, noise impacts and agricultural impacts.

New Acland Coal applied for judicial review of Smith’s recommendation on 15 initial grounds. One of these was apprehended bias, a decision upheld in the Court of Appeal.

OCAA claim that the Court of Appeal ruling that the original case was unfair had cast doubt over the validity of subsequent decisions.

OCAA secretary Paul King said the decision was strongly welcomed by the farmers who had been involved in the struggle against the New Acland expansion.

“It gives them renewed hope for their future,” he said.

Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said she hoped the company would stop trying to bully the Palaszczuk Government into approving this destructive coal mine expansion.

“If the New Acland Stage 3 thermal coal mine is approved, it would destroy more than 1,300 hectares of mapped Strategic Cropping Land and drain 365 water bores,” she said.

“This mine would kill farming jobs and threaten food production, including 10 million litres of milk, at a time when it is needed more than ever.”

New Hope has claimed there was nothing stopping the Government granting approval because the High Court would not be ruling on groundwater or other environmental issues.


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