HANCOCK Coal has been ordered to pay court costs for a woman who fought to have its proposed Galilee Basin mine rejected by the Land Court.
In what seemed a landmark decision, Paola Cassoni successfully argued the mining lease application and environmental authority for the central Queensland project should be refused because groundwater assessments had not been properly carried out.
Acting Land Court president Paul Smith was uncertain whether he had the power to make such a refusal, as it had never been done by the Land Court.
If his original recommendation failed, Mr Smith said additional safeguards to groundwater and make-good agreements with landholders should be imposed.
In any event, he was largely ignored by the State Government.
Hancock announced its environmental authority had been granted for the Alpha Coal mine which would "create around 4000 jobs during its three-year construction and more than 1800 jobs over its 30-plus years of operation".
The mine will produce about 32 million tonnes a year if it goes ahead.
Ms Cassoni is a part-owner of Bimblebox Nature Refuge, an 8000ha haven for native wildlife which falls under the exploration permit for the Galilee coal mine network, west of Rockhampton.
Four separate mines have been proposed for the area.
Ms Cassoni said a Land Court recommendation that three monitoring bores be drilled had been included in Hancock's environmental authority document.
However, she said the provision of a make-good arrangement with surrounding landholders had been delayed until an application for a water licence had been made.
"The catch is that with the proposed new amendments of the water act, mining companies would not have to apply for a water licence and therefore we presume there would be no offering of a new make-good arrangement," she said.
"It's disconcerting to feel to be treated as a second-rate citizen, that we aren't even worth the decency to be advised that a decision has been made to the contrary of the one advised by the court."
The Land Court revisited the matter this week and ordered Hancock to pay half of Ms Cassoni's court costs.
However, the mine still looks like it will go ahead.
"Once we finalise the infrastructure joint venture with Aurizon and the regulatory bodies have addressed litigious challenges to approvals, we will execute coal off-take agreements before finalising all financing arrangements," Hancock has announced.
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