New Acland's deadline for 150 job cuts arrives
AS THE clock struck five yesterday afternoon, reality set in for New Acland Coal Mine general manager Dave O'Dwyer.
It was now near certain that come Monday morning, he would have to begin organising redundancies for 150 of his workers.
New Acland Coal Mine owner New Hope Group told the State Government in early June that it had a September 1 deadline for its outstanding Stage 3 expansion approvals.
At a press conference at the mine yesterday, Mr O'Dwyer said the mine had been "very open with (the State Government) about our timeframes".
"Our timelines are so tight because there is nowhere else for us left to mine," he said.
"So we will just run out of space and we will run out of coal to put on the trains.
"We cannot continue to hold onto a workforce when there's no work for them.
"Without the Stage 3 expansion we'll be ramping down here in October and then that will phase down over the next 12 months and then that will be the end of the Acland operation."
New Acland first sought approvals for its Stage 3 expansion more than 12 years ago.
It is a process that has been tied up in a series of legal battles with the Oakey Coal Action Alliance, which believes the mine expansion poses an "unacceptable threat" to underground water resources.
The company asked for a judicial review after the Land Court recommended the $1 billion Stage 3 not be approved in 2017.
Justice Helen Bowskill overturned that recommendation in 2018, and an appeal is ongoing.
The mine is seeking approvals for Stage 3's mining lease, associated water licence, and continued use of the Jondaryan rail facility on a transitional basis.
It seems unlikely those approvals will materialise by tomorrow.
Despite that, Mr O'Dwyer said there was still time to turn things around.
"Look, if the government calls me at midnight on Sunday, then that's time enough for us to turn the ship. I'll take their phone calls any time, day or night," he said.
New Acland Coal wash plant manager Andy Scouller called on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to back up her talk of supporting Queensland jobs in the coal industry with action.
"What I find very hard to understand is that we can have Premier Palazsczuk on one hand standing up at the Labor State Conference and pushing the importance of jobs and regional jobs and supporting the coal mining industry, and on the other hand we have her government that has dragged the chain for so long on these approvals for New Acland," he said.
"I think Premier Palaszczuk needs to realise that she's a Premier for all of Queensland and not just the city."
"She's got to look after the regional and rural areas."
The State Government was contacted for comment.