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Disappointment as administrative tribunal withholds Shenhua coal documents

Community group Lock the Gate Alliance has redoubled its calls for a Special Commission of Inquiry into mining in NSW after the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal this week found in favour of the NSW Government withholding key documents on the Shenhua coal mine.

Lock the Gate Alliance had sought access to the documents under the NSW Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 due to concerns about the proposed Shenhua Watermark coal mine on the Liverpool Plains, near Gunnedah.

The documents relate to secret negotiations between the NSW Government and Shenhua which resulted in the government granting Shenhua $262M in July 2017 and subsequently renewing 50% of Shenhua’s exploration licence in July 2017.

Lock the Gate spokesperson, Georgina Woods said “The decision this week by NCAT means that there will continue to be serious unanswered questions hanging around the Shenhua coal project like a bad smell.

"The NSW government fought our attempts to access these documents every step of the way. The judgement indicates there are aspects of this deal that are not known the to public and we don't think it's right for the Government to keep this a secret any longer.

"The clear air of public scrutiny must be applied to mining decisions. This cloak of secrecy is damaging.

"The public needs to know why this government gave $262M in public funds to a foreign-owned mining company for no apparent public benefit.

"We’re calling for a Special Commission of Inquiry into this and other recent controversies surrounding the administration of mining in NSW, including issues raised by numerous whistleblowers over the last two months.

"The tribunal decision is a further blow to farmers on the Liverpool Plains whose repeated calls for protection of this national foodbowl have fallen deaf ears," she said.

The NCAT decision on the Lock the Gate Alliance GIPA request is available here.

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