The Oakey Coal Action Alliance and Lock the Gate have this afternoon (Monday, January 16) applied for a review of the Palaszczuk Government’s decision to grant New Hope an Associated Water Licence (AWL) for its New Acland Stage 3 thermal coal mine on the Darling Downs.
“We strongly believe, based on the expert evidence we have submitted, that the Queensland Water Department made a shocking error of judgement by granting an AWL to New Acland,” said OCAA secretary Paul King.
“Farmers originally won this fight due to the impact New Acland’s expansion would have on their groundwater, but New Hope couldn’t take no for an answer, and spent years trying to force its dirty polluting coal mine expansion on the people of the Darling Downs.
“New Acland Stage 3 will affect nearby dairy farmers who rely on water bores for their businesses. Farmers fear these bores will deplete or dry up after the mine starts operating.
“Given the risks to water from the Acland coal mine are not properly understood and can’t be managed, the Palaszczuk Government should prioritise Queensland’s food and water security over coal.”
Key criticisms of the department’s decision to grant the AWL included in OCAA and LTG’s applications include:
- Too much uncertainty contained within the modelling presented to the department which was used to justify the granting of the Associated Water Licence.
Crucial assessments of impacts have been deferred to 18 months after the grant of the licence rather than understanding all impacts up front.
Groundwater drawdown predictions are likely underestimated and predictions in modelling used by the government do not match the observed water levels.
Underground faults are assumed to be a barrier, based on limited analysis, but may actually be conduits for water flow. It is also assumed that there is limited inter-aquifer connectivity between the Walloon Coal Measures and other aquifers, but that is uncertain. This means the impact of the mine on surrounding water users, such as dairy farmers, may be underestimated.
The review also finds a lack of existing data means that should mining cause groundwater drawdown, there would not be a clear mechanism to readily identify it and establish whether New Acland was to blame.
Mr King said, “Our expert advice demonstrates how the department’s decision to grant New Acland an AWL was not made with sufficient scientific information, and we wish to give the government an opportunity to reverse its decision in light of our evidence.
“If the department rejects our application, we will then have the opportunity to take our evidence to the Land Court. The last time the mine’s impact on groundwater was tested in a court of law, it was farmers who won. A legal technicality invalidated that decision so this water licence is now a crucial chance to test it again.
“Farmers are seriously concerned that the Palaszczuk Government has made a scientifically flawed decision, and fear their livelihoods and ability to grow food for Queenslanders will suffer as a result. The Palaszczuk Government should be prioritising farmers’ water security over coal.
“The Darling Downs are for farming, not for mining. New Acland’s coal mine expansion threatens dairies that produce ten million litres of milk each year, and would tear up some of Queensland’s best farmland. It would devastate local farmers who are reliant on water from bores.
“We can’t let that happen.”
- If the Water Department refuses to consider or rejects this expert evidence, either applicant will then be afforded the opportunity to challenge the granting of the AWL to New Acland in the Land Court.
New Acland does not use groundwater at its mine site. The concern farmers have is because the mining of coal depletes groundwater from the aquifers that lie beneath the pit.
New Acland pays only very limited royalties because it owns most of the land on which it mines.
- New Acland’s attempts to rehabilitate mined land at New Hope have failed to restore it to the same quality as pre-mining.