Deception on the Downs: Jobs and the New Acland mine

by Cameron Murray

Queensland’s New Acland Coal mine, near Oakey on the Darling Downs, has been controversial due to its huge impacts on the town of Acland, which is now neardeserted, and its environmental effects and conflicts with agricultural land uses.

The Queensland Land Court recommended rejection of New Hopes’ New Acland Coal (NAC) Stage 3 mine expansion on 31 May 2017. The decision followed the most intense factual scrutiny ever applied to a mining project in the court’s 120-year history.

On 14 February 2018 the Department of Environment and Science (DES) released its decision supporting the Land Court judgement and denying environmental approval.

Further appeals have been made, and a continued disinformation campaign is expected from the mine’s owners New Acland Coal Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of New Hope Group (controlled by Washington H. Soul Pattinson and Company Limited) to generate political support to overturn the decisions of the court and government. In line with those efforts, the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) leader, former Federal Resource Minister Ian Macfarlane, has, for example, promoted job figures that have been contradicted by New Hope’s own court evidence. While Macfarlane claims 2,300 jobs have been sacrificed, New Hope’s commissioned expert economist put the peak total job impact of the project at 680 nationwide.

Furthermore, while New Hope and Macfarlane claim that the local economy ‘relies’ on the mine, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that regional employment is dominated by a range of industries including meat processing, defence, road freight and beef cattle farming. Far from being reliant on mining, major investments have recently been made in an abattoir expansion, rail upgrades, a regional data centre, an airport and business park, road infrastructure and large scale solar electricity projects.

Promoting bad economics about jobs and investment is designed to distort the economic picture of the mine’s significance to gain political favour.

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