Wollongong Coal AGM: community demands ‘fit and proper’ ruling ahead of new proposal to mine drinking water catchment

Published: August 30, 2017

Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining are rallying today in protest outside Wollongong Coal’s AGM, symbolically placing Wollongong Coal in the stocks (or pillory).

Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining are rallying today in protest outside Wollongong Coal’s AGM, symbolically placing Wollongong Coal in the stocks (or pillory).

Kaye Osborn, spokesperson for Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining said, “This company is being investigated for being not “fit or proper” to hold mining rights in NSW while their parent company is before the court on corruption charges in India.

“It has not paid its dues to Wollongong Council. It wants to mine and process coal right next to suburban homes.

“It will not fulfill its promise to carry out important flood mitigation works to protect residents and the environment downstream of the colliery. And its Russell Vale mine project still threatens Sydney’s drinking water catchment.

“Minister for Resources and Energy Don Harwin confirmed last week that the company is still under investigation over ‘fit and proper’ issues first raised in October 2015. How long do we have to wait until this government makes a decision?” said Osborn.

Wollongong Coal said in a recent statement to the ASX that it intends to re-submit plans to mine inside the Special Area of the water catchment south of Sydney soon.

Nic Clyde, spokesperson for Lock the Gate Alliance said, “Revelations last week in a WaterNSW audit that coal mining is reducing water availability in Sydney’s drinking water catchment must trigger urgent action from the NSW Government to declare a moratorium on any further mining in the Special Areas of the catchment and review all current mining approvals.

“The NSW Coalition is failing to uphold the election promise it made prior to coming to Government six years ago to protect drinking water catchments from coal mining.

“There is no more time to dither: we need a moratorium on any further mining in Sydney’s Special Areas, a review of all current operations and a ruling that this company is not fit or proper to operate in New South Wales,” concluded Clyde.

Further comment:

Kaye Osborn, Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining - 0408 763 079

Nic Clyde, spokesperson for Lock the Gate Alliance - 0438 282 409

 

BACKGROUND

 

Wollongong Coal neither fit nor proper

 

22 August 2017:  Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining advised by Minister Harwin that he cannot comment on the fit and proper investigation into Wollongong Coal as it is ongoing. The fit and proper issue was first raised formally with the former Minister Anthony Roberts on 21 October, 2015.

18 August 2017: Wollongong Coal’s disputes and delays over payment of invoices was identified by audits as one of the reasons mining services contractor Delta went out of business.

3 August 2017: The Indian Supreme Court ordered Wollongong Coal’s parent company Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) to repay in full the value of illegally mined ore in Odisha.

22 June 2017: The NSW Resources Regulator launches legal action against Wollongong Coal over failure to pay rent and levies worth more than $288,000.

1 June 2017: Minister Harwin tells NSW Parliament that, “The chief compliance officer of the NSW Resources Regulator approved a full review of Wollongong Coal's fitness to hold an authority under section 380A of the Mining Act last year, and that review is ongoing.”

30 May 2017: Wollongong Coal concedes its longwall mining plans under the water catchment will not be approved, and tells ASX it has started work on a proposal using a less damaging method of mining (bord and pillar). This proposal has yet to be submitted to the Department of Planning.

23 May 2017: India’s Central Bureau of Investigation files fresh charges against Naveen Jindal and JSPL over allegations they misled the Government’s Coal Ministry.

30 April 2016: Corruption charges filed against Chair Naveen Jindal and Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, owner of Wollongong Coal, over corrupt allocation of coal blocks.

Financial situation of Wollongong Coal

Lock the Gate contacted independent energy financial analysis think tank IEEFA for a comment on the financial situation of Wollongong Coal:

  • Wollongong Coal reported another loss for the year to 31 March 2017 of -A$7.2m. Accumulated losses now total -A$923m.   
  • The company has received a breach notice from Mauritius Commercial Bank for an unpaid sum of US$13.3m including instalment repayment and interest.
  • The fact that current liabilities exceed current assets by A$770m raises serious doubts about the company’s future. Wollongong Coal’s auditors noted in their audit report on the 31 March 2017 year-end financial statements that negative net current assets of -A$770m and the reporting of another annual loss “indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the group’s ability to continue as a going concern”. 
  • Wollongong Coal often notes that there is continuing support from its parent entities. However, the financial health of Wollongong’s owners is also highly questionable. Wollongong Coal’s ultimate parent, Jindal Steel and Power, reported a total loss for the 12 months to 31 March 2017 equivalent to -A$502m, the third consecutive yearly loss, with operating income dwarfed by interest expenses.

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