AFTER courtroom scenes reminiscent of the classic Aussie battler tale, The Castle, three central Queensland landowners are celebrating a bittersweet win against mining giant Glencore Xstrata.
Xstrata Coal Queensland and its Japanese joint venture partners have been ordered to pay more than $30 million in compensation to the landholders within 30 days of the State Government granting mining leases over the $7 billion Wandoan thermal coal project.
The Land Court determination handed down by president Carmel MacDonald in Brisbane this month, awarded $11.38m to Cowan and Helen Keys.
The family trust Sky Grove Pty Ltd were awarded $11.338m for the acquisition of the grazing properties, AvonView and Langowan.
John Erbacher was ordered to be compensated $10.77m for East Lynne and Tamara.
East Lynne is used for beef production, dry land cropping and has a piggery.
Beef producers Thomas and Janice Edmonds, of Turraden, would receive about $8.31m.
The Wandoan greenfield project has been the target of constant speculation over its future after Glencore Xstrata pulled the plug on its $1billion Balaclava Island coal export terminal near Gladstone last month.
Landholders Services director George Houen represented the families and said it was a significant decision after the three stood firm while more than 35 other property owners buckled and sold privately to Xstrata.
"We are really pleased in terms of what courts normally award and it's a notable decision because it is a fair one to the landholders," Mr Houen said.
"The project was always going to require Xstrata to own all of the land and it chose to go about acquiring it in a way which brought about this situation.
"I guess they might now be reflecting on the stance they took because it was perfectly obvious they were not making a fair offer to the landholders they were trying to dispossess.
"But I don't think anybody thinks this mine is going ahead in the current (market) circumstances, so there's a period of real uncertainty ahead for the owners because it could be years before it goes ahead and that compensation becomes effective."
Ms MacDonald ignored submissions for a sunset clause and indexation to be imposed to the payouts if there were lengthy delays in granting the mining leases.
"There is no provision in the Act for the court to order that an award of compensation be indexed," Ms MacDonald said.
"If there is a long delay between the handing down of this decision and the grant of the mining leases, such that the rate of the award is eroded by inflation… the respondents may apply for a review of compensation on the grounds there has been a material change of circumstances.
"The Act requires the Land Court to determine compensation, not to decide when compensation might cease to be payable."
The compensation was determined on recent rural land sales in the area, and the court was told resource companies often paid well above book value to acquire properties of interest.