Environmentalists, farmers claim partial win on New Acland
ENVIRONMENTAL activists and farmers are rejoicing this afternoon after an environmental authority for New Acland Stage 3 was rejected.
The Department of Environment and Science's decision was made public around 1:30pm.
Vocal opponents to the project, Lock the Gate Alliance, were ebullient.
Spokeswoman Ellie Smith said: "This is a wonderful day for Acland farmers and residents. They ran the longest legal challenge in the history of the Land Court, and won, and we're all relieved that decision has been respected by the department.
"The Land Court decision was so significant because it was the first time the Court had recommended outright rejection of a mining project after a contested hearing, whilst on the other hand they have recommended approval 290 times.
"The department has done the right thing and upheld the rule of law in Queensland by rejecting an Environmental Authority for this damaging mine.
"This vindicates everything local people have worked so hard to protect for the last 10 years - rich farming country, groundwater and the health and wellbeing of their families.
"They have suffered health impacts and severe mental distress as a result of the negative impacts of the existing mine and fears about the expansion.
"The important thing now is to end the uncertainty for the community and to permanently protect the Darling Downs from damaging coal mines," she said.
The mine's New Hope Group expressed dismay at the decision.
New Hope Group's managing director Shane Stephan issued a statement: "We are disappointed with this outcome and are considering our options in response.
"As previously advised a Judicial Review of the Land Court decision is underway.
"The Company is committed to securing approval for this Project and in doing so being able to provide ongoing employment for the circa 700 jobs reliant on the project."
The Land Court last year recommended the mining proposal from New Hope Group be rejected.
Environmental Defenders Qld CEO Jo-Anne Bragg said: "New Acland Coal has applied for judicial review of the Land Court's decision, which could in turn invalidate the department's decision.
"The review hearing is scheduled for 19 March this year. The Mines Minister must also still make his decision about whether or not to grant the required mining leases.''