Darling Downs farmers and Lock the Gate Alliance are calling on the Queensland Palaszczuk Government to throw the book at New Acland Coal amid revelations the Environment Department is still investigating the company for alleged illegal mining.
The department first received complaints in 2018 that New Acland Coal, a wholly owned subsidiary of New Hope Group, was mining “West Pit” - an area of land within the NAC mining lease but outside the mine footprint it first applied for as part of its stage two project from the State Government.
The mining of West Pit has taken the coal mine to within a stone’s throw of the town of Acland, with only a few residents and the town’s war memorial park left.
Brymaroo farmer Frank Ashman said, “It is unacceptable that the local community has had to wait more than two and a half years so far for the Environment Department to complete an investigation into what seems like a clear and obvious violation of New Acland Coal’s mining approval.
“Neighbours have put up with noise, dust, and potential underground water impacts that were not assessed in the New Acland Stage 2 mine Environmental Impact Statement.
“The Environment Department needs to get tough on this company and send a message to all communities that deal with mining companies on their doorstep, that if the law is broken there will be serious repercussions.”
Recently, it was revealed New Hope splurged more $650,000 on the 2020 Queensland election in an attempt to pressure the government into approving its Stage 3 expansion.
Soon after spending this eye-watering amount, New Hope Group told the ASX it would place the coal mine in care and maintenance this December.
“Perhaps rather than spending $650,000 on fruitless lobbying efforts, New Hope could have spent that money rehabilitating the land it has destroyed,” said Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith.
“It is remarkable that after three years of investigations, the Environment Department has still not prosecuted New Acland for mining West Pit - mining that any member of the public can log on to Google Maps satellite and see for themselves.
“The mining of West Pit would have been part of New Hope’s unapproved Stage 3 expansion, yet the company ignored this lack of approval and ongoing legal challenges, to mine the area anyway.
“This creates a worrying precedent. We fear other mining companies may see this lacklustre effort from the Environment Department as a green light for them to violate approvals at their own mine sites.”