Andy Scouller, Wash Plant Manager at the New Acland Coal Mine. Photography: Russell Shakespeare
Andy Scouller, Wash Plant Manager at the New Acland Coal Mine. Photography: Russell Shakespeare

Acland applies to disturb priority ag land for expansion

LOCK The Gate Alliance has accused New Hope Group, the owner of New Acland Coal Mine, of allowing "highly productive agricultural land" it owns on the Darling Downs to degrade so it can be mined.

In November, New Acland Coal Pty Ltd applied to the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning for a Regional Interests Development Approval to disturb 2995 ha of land classed as a Priority Agricultural Area for its Stage 3 expansion.

Of that land, 2700 ha is classed as Strategic Cropping Area, according to New Acland's application.

In a Priority Land Use Assessment prepared by SLR Consulting Australia for New Acland as part of its application, SLR Consulting argued "there will be no material impact on the PAA as this report demonstrates that the activities will not be located on land that is used for a Priority Agricultural Land Use".

SLR's report found of the 33 paddocks within the PAA study area, "all were found to qualify as non-Priority Agricultural Land Use, having not been cultivated a minimum of three years in the past ten".

The report said New Hope Group planned to rehabilitate the land post-mining.

Lock the Gate said a subsidiary of New Hope, New Acland Pastoral, first purchased the strategic cropping land five years ago.

Oakey Coal Action Alliance Secretary Paul King said New Hope was seeking to dig up and destroy "some of the finest soils in the world".

"These cannot be replaced despite any rehabilitation efforts the company employs," he said.

"New Hope has deliberately run down prime farmland that it purchased from the district's farmers in order to prove that it is not suitable for cropping, or of much value at all."

A New Hope spokesman said government legislation required the company to demonstrate it would have no impact on land used for PALU.

"And this is what our RIDA application shows," he said.

"To put some context around the New Acland application, the total mapped priority agricultural area in the Darling Downs region is just under 3 million hectares and the New Acland application comprises just 2995 hectares of that area."

Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokeswoman Ellie Smith said the Darling Downs was widely recognised as being one of the key food bowls of Australia, yet New Hope was doing its best to reduce the amount of land available for cropping.

A New Hope spokesman said New Hope Group was proud of the work being done in the region by its agricultural business, Acland Pastoral Company.

"Since purchasing the land, APC have been utilising the land for grazing cattle and have an active weed and pest control program in place," he said, adding that APC had been helping farmers with donated feed during the drought.

The public submission period for New Hope's RIDA Application closes today.

Submissions can made electronically to the assessor at RPIAct@dsdmip.qld.gov.au.

We need it to stay open: Oakey business in support of New Acland Mine expansion
We need it to stay open: Oakey business in support of New Acland Mine expansion