THE DEEP END: Coops Queensland employee Ruben Boogerman (left) and owner Dave Cooper want to see New Acland's Stage 3 project approved by the State Government.
THE DEEP END: Coops Queensland employee Ruben Boogerman (left) and owner Dave Cooper want to see New Acland's Stage 3 project approved by the State Government. Contributed

30 DAYS: 'I can't guarantee they'll have jobs at Christmas'

WHEN Coops Queensland owner Dave Cooper wakes up of a morning and when he goes to bed, it's there, a constant weight.

The worry of what could happen to his Oakey-based earthmoving business of 15 years and his more than 30 employees if New Acland Coal Mine's Stage 3 is not approved by September 1 is on his mind all the time.

"You're constantly thinking about how do we carry through and do the right thing by everyone concerned," he said.

From a small operation established in 2005, Mr Cooper has grown his business significantly over the years.

These days he said 80% of his work came from mine owner New Hope Group.

"The uncertainty is killing (my employees) because I can't guarantee they'll have jobs at Christmas," he said.

New Hope has set a date of September 1 to obtain approvals for Stage 3's mining lease, associated water licence, and continued use of the Jondaryan rail facility on a transitional basis.

If the approvals are not through within 30 days, the mine will shed about 150 jobs and production will be halved.

The State Government in late July indicated it would decide on the mine's AWL by "the end of September" - though Acland's management have indicated that would be too late for 150 of their workers.

Mr Cooper said about 100 suppliers and contractors in the local area benefited from the work his company gets at the mine.

"The New Acland Mine is the backbone of the community and the backbone of my business," Mr Cooper said.

"I can't think of one organisation in the region that isn't better as a result of New Hope and the New Acland Mine.

"If the State Government doesn't approve the expansion of Stage 3, I'll have to leave Oakey and relocate to a centre with a future.

"The Premier needs to understand the overwhelming majority of people want the State Government to approve the expansion."

It has been 12 years since New Hope first sought approvals for Stage 3, a process that has been tied up in a series of legal battles with the Oakey Coal Action Alliance.

The company asked for a judicial review after the Land Court recommended Stage 3 not be approved in 2017.

Justice Helen Bowskill overturned that recommendation in 2018, and an appeal is ongoing.

The alliance believes the mine expansion poses an "unacceptable threat" to underground water resources.