Voters to break ‘playbook of anti-coal activists’
JOB cuts and stagnation could face Bowen Basin mining communities if a toxic pattern of legal battles and delayed approvals is allowed to continue, New Hope Group warned as it toured mining electorates.
New Hope Group, which owns the New Acland Coal Mine near Oakey, said Mackay region voters should be marking their ballot for the party that will unlock mining approvals.
Chief operations officer Andrew Boyd met with Mackay and Mirani state election candidates on Thursday to ask the parties to commit to the Toowoomba region mine.
Mr Boyd said the Darling Downs mine's expansion, which would create 500 new jobs, had faced a 13 year battle against government bureaucrats and repeated court action by land owners and environmentalists.
Since gaining environmental approvals in 2014, Mr Boyd said the mine has been "tied up" in legal battles with the latest case pushed by the Oakey Coal Action Alliance facing the High Court.
The expansion delays have come at a cost, Mr Boyd said, with 150 people fired from the mine and the remaining 150 workers on site under threat if the stall continued.
Mr Boyd said Mackay residents knew this pattern of delays and bureaucratic red tape was not unique to his Toowoomba region mine.
"This is a message to our friends in the Bowen Basin, don't think it couldn't happen to you," Mr Boyd said.
"It's to tell our story and spread the word in other coal mining projects in Queensland."
As an Australian-owned existing mine, Mr Boyd said there were many differences between New Acland Coal and Mackay's long wait for the Adani mine approval.
But he said both mines were a victim of a broken approval system.
"The similarities are with the system," Mr Boyd said.
"The reality is the system is broken.
"It's the play book of anti-coal activists - delay."
New Hope Group has begun its tour of mining electorates, which will include Clermont, Townsville and Rockhampton.
The mine also commissioned an OmniPoll survey, which found 88 per cent of Mackay residents believed coal jobs made an important contribution to the State's economy, yet 37 per cent did not believe the current government was committed to protecting or creating jobs in the regions.
Despite polling voters, contacting candidates and calling on residents to contact their local members, Mr Boyd said the mine did "not want to get political".
"We'll do what we have to do get this project approved," he said.
"We're fighting for our survival.
"When people go to the ballot box on October 31 … they need to choose someone who will show up for this industry."
Earlier this month LNP Leader Deb Frecklington said if elected, her government would approve the mine's expansion.
Ms Frecklington reversed her 2012 position, when she said she lobbied the LNP to "not support the proposal for Acland Stage 3 that would see the expansion of the open-cut coal mine digging up strategic cropping land".
Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said the state supported the resources sector, as it generated royalties and jobs particularly in the regions.
Dr Lynham said under the current government $20 billion had been invested in or committed to resources projects, creating 7000 jobs.
And he said over the next four-years another $10 million has been set aside as a booster pack of grants to drive future resources jobs.
"The New Acland Stage 3 project has received significant community interest and has a protracted legal history," he said.
"The Government's position on the New Acland Coal Mine expansion has been consistent since our commitment before the 2017 election: to accept the decision of the courts.
"We will await the outcome of the High Court processes before finalising the remaining approvals for this project."