A document released to Lock the Gate Alliance as part of a protracted freedom of information struggle with the NSW Government has revealed that coal mining company Shenhua applied to suspend a key condition which allows the government to cancel Shenhua’s mining licence.
The condition gives the Government the power to cancel the exploration licence altogether and prevent the company’s Watermark coal mine proceeding.
For more than a year, local farming and community groups and Lock the Gate Alliance have been calling for the government to use the condition to cancel the licence.
Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “The NSW Government has been playing a double game, claiming it wants to protect the Liverpool Plains from mining while conducting secret negotiations with mining company Shenhua Australia.
"The licence condition Shenhua has applied to suspend for five years is the condition that gives the Government the power to cancel the licence that threatens the Liverpool Plains and end this sorry saga once and for all," she said.
It is not clear whether the Government has agreed to Shenhua’s request to suspend the government’s power to cancel the licence or whether it is under serious consideration.
The document has been released to Lock the Gate Alliance during the course of proceedings in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal following a freedom of information request that was largely rejected by the government.
The Alliance is attempting to bring to light secret negotiations between the Government and Shenhua over the renewal of its coal exploration licence on the Liverpool Plains and decision last year to give the company $262 million.
"The community still doesn’t know what the Government may have promised Shenhua behind closed doors or what deals have been done.
"It was unnecessary and perverse for the Government to give this coal mining company a quarter of a billion dollars of public money when they had the power to cancel Shenhua’s licence all along. They could have halved the size of the licence for free as the Mining Act says should happen on renewal.
"If the Government is serious about protecting the Liverpool Plains from mining and securing the future of its agricultural production, it will cancel Shenhua’s licence and make our state’s productive farmland off-limits to mining altogether."