Oakey Coal Action Alliance, which is committed to saving the groundwater relied on by Darling Downs farmers from the New Acland coal mine, has launched a new legal challenge against the stage 3 expansion.
Represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, OCAA is challenging the Queensland Government’s decision to grant an associated water licence to New Acland in the Land Court.
OCAA has also sought an undertaking from New Acland Coal that it will not exercise its entitlement under the associated water licence to take or interfere with groundwater until the challenge is decided. This is to prevent New Acland Coal from carrying out any operations, including the mining of coal, that could result in the taking or interference with groundwater, and to ensure no impacts to groundwater occur from those operations prior to the challenge being decided. If New Acland Coal does not provide this undertaking, OCAA will consider bringing an application for a stay to prevent New Acland Coal from acting on the associated water licence.
OCAA secretary Paul King said, “The irreplaceable groundwater that sustains the Darling Downs agricultural region must be protected at all costs. The Queensland Government treated these farmers and the water they rely on with contempt when it granted the associated water licence to New Acland, so we are stepping in where the government has failed.
“We are seeking to ensure that the impacts to precious groundwater posed by stage 3 are finally properly assessed.
“We have always said the Darling Downs is for farming, not coal mining, and we have no intentions of backing down now.”
EDO Managing Lawyer Revel Pointon said, “Water has always been of crucial importance to our clients in this matter, with the New Acland mine carving out part of some of the best agricultural land in the country and risking unacceptable impacts to precious water resources in the process.
“Our clients submit that the Queensland Government made an error in law when it approved the Associated Water Licence. We argue the groundwater impacts have still not been properly investigated and are so significant that this application to impact groundwater should have been refused.
“It’s worth noting that one of the reasons the Land Court originally recommended refusal for this mine expansion was the potential impact to groundwater, and the implications of this on future generations.
“Due to a subsequent legal ruling from the Supreme Court on review, groundwater impacts were not able to be considered in the assessment of the environmental authority for this mine. This is an essential appeal to ensure that the proposed impacts of groundwater take are finally properly assessed.
“On behalf of OCAA we are seeking an assurance from New Acland Coal that it will follow due process and refrain from any activity that might impact the water regulated by this licence, until our client’s appeal has been heard.”
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said, “Coal mines like New Acland Stage 3 attack farmers from all sides – they drain the groundwater they rely on to grow crops and feed stock, while also driving dangerous climate change that is already making it harder for farmers to grow food as extreme weather intensifies.
“That’s why it’s so important that these farmers are challenging the associated water licence. For the sake of Darling Downs farmers, for the Queenslanders who rely on the food they grow, and for future generations who will have to contend with a climate influenced by decisions made today.”