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Farmers 'sympathetic' to miners, but want Acland closed

Paul King, Aileen Harrison and Frank Ashman have objected to the expansion of the New Acland coal mine and gathered outside court in Brisbane ahead of closing submissions in the case. They are pictured outside of court in October.
Paul King, Aileen Harrison and Frank Ashman have objected to the expansion of the New Acland coal mine and gathered outside court in Brisbane ahead of closing submissions in the case. They are pictured outside of court in October. Pamela Frost

FARMERS are sympathetic to the plight of New Acland workers, but want the mine closed, the president of a group opposed to the mine says.

Frank Ashman leads the Oakey Coal Action Alliance, a group which formed in opposition to the controversial stage 3 expansion of the New Hope Group-owned mine at Acland.

He said, as an organisation of beef producers and farmers, members were "very sympathetic" towards the workers who he called a "good bunch of people", many of them local to Meringandan, Highfields and other towns close to Acland.

"Of course we don't want stage 3 to go ahead. The main reason is that we're fearful that our groundwater will be impacted upon. Our enterprises are relevant to groundwater and if we lose that they're gone."

Mr Ashman made the comments following a workers' rally in Brisbane during which miners argued their livelihoods were at risk if the mine was denied permission to expand. 

Miners on their way to Brisbane to protest delays over the approval of an expansion at New Hope Group's New Acland mine. Photo 7 News Toowoomba
Miners on their way to Brisbane to protest delays over the approval of an expansion at New Hope Group's New Acland mine. Photo 7 News Toowoomba

The $896 million stage 3 project will see the existing New Acland open-cut coal mine expand production to up to 7.5 Mtpa.

New Hope Group has said stage 2 of the mine is due to finish operations next year and if the stage 3 expansion is not approved hundreds of people will lose their jobs.

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Mr Ashman said he understood employment was not good in Australia at the best of times, but said there were other jobs out there.

"These people are well trained and skilled and we doubt they'd have difficulty finding employment.

"If the mine goes ahead with stage 3, and the theory is it will operate for 12 years, they'd need to be looking at reemployment anyway, they're just delaying that by 12 years."

Mr Ashman said he was also worried the mine would irreparably damage strategic cropping land.

"You cannot destroy or turn that ground inside out and convert into anything of real value - it's a furphy.

"That's one of the things we argued in court."

New Hope Group says it will provide direct jobs for more than 300 locals, 160 contractors, and contribute to 2300 more indirect jobs.

Topics:  acland new hope group oakey coal action alliance toowoomba


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