Stakes high as New Hope seek approval to expand Acland
THERE is a feeling of nervous anticipation lying just below the surface at New Acland coal mine.
The 305 workers employed at the operation north of Oakey are quickly approaching a critical stage in the life of the open cut mine.
Their futures at the site are riding on an application to massively expand operations and extend the life of the mine past its current end date of 2017.
The New Acland Revised Stage 3 Proposal is before Queensland's Coordinator General, with word on whether or not it will be approved expected to be announced before the end of March next year.
Approval from the Coordinator General would be a major milestone for mine owner New Hope Coal's plans to increase coal production from the current 4.8 million tonnes a year to 7.5 million tonnes a year.
If approved, the life of the mine would also be extended to 2030.
New Hope Coal general manager of mining Jim Randell said the effects on the Darling Downs would be widespread if the application were to be denied.
"Well we've got 305 employees here, direct employees, who go home to their families every night," Mr Randell said.
"Its very important to them that we have some continuation after 2017 because without that we will have 305 people out of work as well as a number of contractors out of work."
The New Acland mine has met opposition at different times during its decade in operation.
Residents close to its Jondaryan coal loading facility have complained about dust coating their homes and some landowners in the Acland region have taken exception to noise and dust pollution from the mine proper.
Mr Randell expected concerns about the mining process would feature in the Coordinator General's decision making process.
He said the company was dedicated to addressing concerns raised, with New Acland's rehabilitation of mining land a prime example.
"We move the material from in front of the mine around immediately behind the mine so at any point in time, once the mine has gone through and extracted the coal, less than 100m behind the mine we are starting to lay down the land form with top soil on top of that.
"We will then put grasses in place for pasture and within a matter of maybe two or three years we will have cattle on that pasture grazing here, again, making the land productive, maybe even more productive than it was before we mined."
He said the future of the mine was something that was discussed among workers.
"Obviously in times when the industry is in a down phase as it is now, security of employment is a key issue, so this is just another thing that makes people a little more nervous.
"But, everybody gets stuck in and works towards convincing our community that this is a good thing."