Qld not entitled to most Acland royalties

·2-min read

Queensland might be entitled to less than seven per cent of royalties generated by a major thermal coal mine that is one step away from approval.

New Hope's Acland coal mine, near Toowoomba, has been the subject of a long and complex court battle as farmers and environmentalists fought the approval of the stage-three expansion.

The project now has a final hurdle to clear as New Hope waits for a water licence following the granting of mining leases by state resources minister Scott Stewart last week.

Should the mine go ahead, the New Hope Group estimates it will pay as much as 80 per cent of royalties to itself thanks to its land holdings in the area.

The mine is owned by New Acland Coal, a New Hope company.

The Queensland government says it is generally the recipient of mining and petroleum royalties, which can be worth more than 30 per cent of the price received for a commodity.

However, the majority of the Acland project is subject to old land titles that mean the rights to resources in the ground are retained by the landowner.

New Hope believes royalties payable to the state will be between five and seven per cent of total extractions from the project, with other landholders making up the remainder.

"Royalties payments to the New Hope Group as land and resource owner consolidate into the New Hope Group financial results, on which taxes and duties are paid, together with payments to our employees, suppliers and local community support funds," a spokesperson for the group said in a statement.

Royalties are not a criteria for assessing or granting a mining lease application, a spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Resources said.

Under state legislation, details of royalty liabilities of particular mining tenure holders are confidential, a Queensland Treasury spokesperson said.

In granting the project's mining leases on Friday, Mr Stewart confirmed the project also required an associated water licence from the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water.

The legal battle has included a 100-day hearing in the Land Court and actions in both Queensland's supreme and appeal courts, as well as the High Court.

Lawyers familiar with the case say the water licence is far from a foregone conclusion and groundwater is one of the primary reasons the Land Court originally rejected the stage-three proposal.

A Court of Appeal decision in 2019 found earlier Land Court recommendations were affected by "apprehended bias" but did not order another hearing.

The Supreme Court determined that groundwater was not in the Land Court's remit and a condensed version of the case was heard last year after a High Court decision.

The Land Court ultimately recommended the mining leases and environmental authority be granted with conditions.