Protesters expected at Colton Mine court case

THURSDAY marks the start of a legal battle which will ultimately decide the future of the Colton Mine Project and set a precedent for mining approvals in regional Queensland.

New Hope Coal is expected to call on the Land Court to strike out a series of conditions outlined in the State Government's draft approval and to find that the project should go ahead, despite deep-seated objections from local land owners.

The case file headed - Colton Coal v Aldershot and District Against Mining (ADAM) and the Department of Environment Heritage and Protection - is expected to be fiercely contested in the coming months with an outcome unlikely until later this year.

Protests are expected outside the Maryborough Courthouse this morning where a first directions hearing will take place to confirm deadlines both parties will have to meet to outline their objections, provide a list of witnesses they may wish to call and supply any documents they plan to rely on.

ADAM remains vehemently opposed to the open-cut mine, earmarked for the old Burrum Coal Field near Maryborough, on the grounds it would increase dust and noise pollution, mining proximity to residences and discharge untreated mine waste water to the lower Mary River.

ADAM spokesman Brian Linforth said yesterday $20,000 in donations to the group and the Lock the Gate Alliance had funded "highly qualified legal and technical experts to assist in the fight" which is now in its fifth year.

In a statement released to the Chronicle on Wednesday, New Hope confirmed the Colton Mine would be the subject of a directions hearing today but "will not comment further out of respect for the legal process".

The Chronicle understands that among other things, New Hope wants to be rid of biodiversity conditions on the EHP's draft approval which would require the company to "offset" the mine's impact on the existing wildlife corridor and other environmental impacts - a task which would cost millions.

Mr Linforth said if New Hope succeeded, it would set a precedent for other mining companies wishing to carry out operations without adhering to guidelines.

Thursday's hearing is listed for 10am.