New Acland Coal Pty Ltd (NAC) applied for a ‘stage 3 expansion’ of its coal mining operations near Oakey in Queensland by seeking two further mining leases and an amendment of its existing environmental authority (‘applications’). Objections, including by the Oakey Coal Action Alliance Inc (OCAA) which represents a group of farmers and other community members, were brought against the applications. Following the objections of OCAA and others, provisions of the Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld) (MR Act) and the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) (EP Act) required the referral of the applications to the Land Court for consideration and recommendation. The recommendations of Member Smith, the presiding member, were made to the Minster for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy under the MR Act and the Chief Executive of the Department of Environment and Science under the EP Act to assist them in making the ultimate decision on the applications.
Years of complicated litigation ensued, including a finding of apprehended bias and the longest ever hearing in the Land Court of Queensland (100 days), after which the High Court ruled that the applications be referred back to the Land Court for reconsideration.
The judgment from the High Court is published here.
The matter has been called an “epic” legal battle. Coverage from LawyersWeekly is available here.
King & Wood Mallesons have written this summary and analysis of the proceedings to date.