How do you stop a coal mine expansion? Which case won?
Coal mine in Upper Hunter approved for 21 years
In 2006, a company began operating an open cut coal mine in the Upper Hunter, NSW, under a consent granted by the state government.
The approved life of the mine was 21 years, until February 2027.
In January 2016, the company lodged a development application, seeking consent to expand the area of the mine and extend its operations by seven years, until December 2033.
Under the proposed expansion, the mine’s output until 2027 would continue to be predominantly thermal coal for domestic sale. From 2027 to 2033, the mine would produce only high ash thermal coal for sale on the export market.
Developments in government’s climate policy
In November 2016, Australia ratified the Paris Agreement and adopted 2005 emissions as a baseline, with a target reduction of 26-28% by 2030.
Later that month, NSW published the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework (NSW CCPF) with the “aspirational long-term objective” of net zero emissions by 2050.
Local association raises concerns over project and commences legal action
In December 2016, a local not-for-profit association raised concerns about the project’s inconsistencies with government targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In April 2017, the NSW government’s Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) published its determination report, granting consent for the company’s project to expand the mine and extend its operations by seven years.
In August 2017, the association commenced proceedings against the company and the PAC in the Land and Environment Court. The association sought to restrain the company from undertaking any development in reliance on the consent and to overturn the PAC’s decision to grant the consent.