New Acland Coal Pty Ltd - The Saga Continues
On 7 November 2018, the President of the Land Court delivered her orders and recommendations on the Application for Stage 3 of the New Acland open cut coal mine.
Member Smith conducted an objection hearing and made various recommendations about Stage 3 back in May 2017. That decision was judicially reviewed in early 2018 by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled that Member Smith's Land Court decision was to be set aside and ordered that a different Member of the Land Court was to conduct the hearing again (on a limited basis).
The President noted that Member Smith had made certain observations about noise in the May 2017 hearing. Member Smith had previously noted that the objectors who have made noise complaints have not been well served in the past by the mine or DES (then DEHP). He in fact noted that the objectors (mostly the neighbouring landholders) had in fact been treated very poorly in the past. Those findings of Member Smith were binding on President Kingham.
Whilst the case dealt with issues of jurisdiction, the Court's functions and other things the President decided that she was able to make a conditional recommendation about the applications. President Kingham then so ordered this, but recommended that there be various conditions in regard to noise changed in the Environmental Authority for the mining leases. President Kingham attached these conditions to the decision in an Annexure A.
If the conditions in the Environmental Authority are not amended by 31 May 2019 or if the Co-ordinator General refuses to amend the conditions, then President Kingham recommended to the Minister that the applications for the mining lease is to be refused.
The decision can be found here https://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2018/QLC18-041.pdf.
Negotiations with resource companies in regard to noise exceedances are very stressful and difficult. Landholders complain to the Department of Environment and hope that the Regulator will assist them and direct mining companies to keep noise below acceptable levels. Better regulation and conditions in regard to noise limits are essential to protect the health and wellbeing of neighbouring people. Unfortunately, the fox is in charge of the henhouse in most situations. It is the resource company that is required to keep noise levels low and it is also their role to keep a proper calibrated and reliable monitoring program in place.
Better conditions in Environmental Authorities can protect neighbouring landholders. It is very important to object and to lobby for tighter environmental conditions to be imposed on resource companies during the application phase for a project. If conditions are too loose then monitoring results and data can be very difficult to obtain or rely upon.
If you are located in close proximity to a mine or a resource project, you should set "google alerts" and be aware of when you might need to make submissions if a project could affect your property. Even if you are not within the boundaries of a Mining Lease, the Environmental Authority is a very important tool and you need to be aware of how a project could affect you and the wellbeing of your family.
Here at Rees R & Sydney Jones, we have experience assisting landholders with numerous objection cases, noise exceedance matters and other environmental breach matters.