Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science (DES) has refused to award an amended environmental authority (EA) to New Hope Group’s $900m expansion of the open-cut New Acland coal mine in Australia.

The decision is consistent with the recommendation made by Queensland Land Court (QLC) to reject the company’s application to expand the mine onto the Darling Downs near Toowoomba on the grounds of a potential threat to groundwater supplies and air quality.

New Hope noted that a judicial review of the QLC decision is in progress.

“This very surprising decision puts at risk more than 700 jobs despite the project undergoing rigorous government assessment processes.”

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said: “This very surprising decision handed down without any reasoning or explanation, puts at risk more than 700 jobs despite the project undergoing rigorous government assessment processes, including an examination by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee as part of the federal government’s approval.”

In its ruling, the QLC stated that the Stage 3 expansion project will cause disruptions to aquifers in the Acland region, resulting in an adverse impact on nearby landholders.

In November last year, the company released a report prepared by global consulting firm Ernst and Young (EY), which suggested that proceeding with the New Acland Stage 3 project could result in additional economic activity worth A$7bn ($5.37bn) in Australia.

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The report disclosed that in case the project is not approved, the local government will miss out on revenue of A$112m ($85.97m).