Anti-coal groups question timing on New Acland announcement

ENVIRONMENTAL groups have questioned the Queensland Government's decision to announce the New Acland coal mine expansion approval.

The government announced the mine expansion, near Oakey, late on Friday night.

Anti-coal groups - the Oakey Coal Action Alliance and Stop Australian Coal Exports - said the timing showed the government was trying to hide the deal due to political donations from mine owner New Hope Coal.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the independent Queensland coordinator-general had made the decision to approve the mine.

"This mine expansion is set to create over 250 jobs during construction and another 435 operational jobs, as well as providing business opportunities in the nearby towns of Dalby, Oakey, Pittsworth and others," he said.

He said the expansion's scope had been reduced following community concerns and its potential impact on cropping land.

But OCAA president John Cook said he believed the approval had been tainted by the political donation.

"New Hope Coal has donated more than $700,000 to the state and federal LNP since the 2012 state election in order to get this project approved," he said.

"'The Queensland Coordinator-General, who assessed this project, is not independent. His office is next to Mr Seeney's and he meets regularly with him."

Similarly SACE spokesman John Gordon said the Queensland's approvals process was tainted.

"The LNP are petrified that revelations of $700,000 in donations given to them by New Hope Coal in the lead up to the EIS submission process would surface and damage them electorally. This kind of graft is unprecedented in Australian history, let alone in Queensland," he said.

New Hope managing director Shane Stephan praised the approval and said it would provide jobs and allow investment to continue in the region.

"The revised New Acland Project plan will extend the life of the current operation to about 2029, taking the number of full-time operational jobs to about 435, and creating another 260 jobs during the construction phase," he said.

"The number of full-time contractors will increase to around 170 positions, and indirect jobs will grow by more than 1500.