Documents released under Right to Information Laws show New Hope Coal was fined a measly $3,153 for drilling dozens of illegal bores at its New Acland Mine on Queensland’s Darling Downs.
According to emails sent between department staff, the company illegally drilled at least 27 bores, and were in the process of illegally drilling 41 more (RTI file A, pages 129-130).
It is not clear why the department did not publish this fine, and why an RTI was required for this information to be made public.
Lock the Gate Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said it was the latest in a long list of controversies for the miner, which is attempting to progress its deeply controversial Stage 3 expansion despite ongoing court action against it.
The RTI documents also show that New Acland has increased extraction under Stage 2 to meet contracts while a determination is made on Stage 3, and confirm the company is now undertaking operations (including blasting and loading) within 200m of adjacent landholders as a result of this expansion(RTI file A, p122).
As well, the documents suggest DES was investigating the company for unauthorised disturbance/mining in its West Pit in June last year, after community complaints, but do not show whether that has progressed further (RTI File A, pg 15).
Ms Smith said the miner’s unscrupulous behaviour was having a detrimental impact on farmers and local residents.
“This latest development comes after New Hope was fined $9,461 for 34 exceedances of noise limits from June-August 2018, following multiple complaints from fed up farmers and local residents,” she said.
“This latest paltry fine, kept secret by the department, will do nothing to stop New Hope’s irresponsible behaviour.
"New Hope made $160 million after-tax profit in the six months to January 2019, and this fine of $3,153 is only one twentieth of the maximum allowable penalty, yet for some reason the Queensland Department of Environment and Science thought it would act as a deterrent.
"We believe New Hope should have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law, rather than receiving a minor fine.
“The people of Oakey and Jondaryan are fed up, and are worried that if the New Acland Stage 3 expansion goes ahead, local businesses will go into terminal decline.”
Desley Spies, a farmer from nearby Mount Darry said, “New Hope is treating the farmers of our region very poorly, despite the fact we produce food and fibre here on the Darling Downs which Queensland relies on.
“The farming land around Oakey is classed in the top 1.5 per cent in Queensland. It is madness that it should be destroyed for the sake of a temporary coal mine.”
A link to the RTI documents is available here.