Lock the Gate Alliance has condemned mining company Gloucester Resources for launching a court challenge to the Government’s refusal of the Rocky Hill open cut coal mine. Lock the Gate says the Department of Planning deliberately left the door open to the company for appeals that are routinely denied to the community.
The Rocky Hill coal mine was refused consent by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission on 14 December because of its unacceptable impacts on the town of Gloucester. Today, the community has learned the company has launched a court challenge against that decision.
The mine was refused permission because it was found to be incompatible with the tourism, residential and agricultural land use and character of the area around Gloucester. The decision report also noted that the project had brought stress, angst, anxiety, depression and solastalgia to the community.
Under New South Wales law, the right to appeal a mining approval is removed when a public hearing is held by the Planning Assessment Commission. In this instance, the Department of Planning recommended the mine be refused but skipped the process of review and public hearing, leaving the door open for the mining company to appeal. For every other mine in the last five years, which overwhelmingly have been approved, a public hearing has been held, removing the community’s ability to appeal.
A letter from the Department of Planning to the Commission in October last year made it clear that the Department wanted to leave the door open for the mining company to appeal the Commission’s decision.
Lock the Gate spokesperson, Georgina Woods, said:
“The system for assessing and deciding damaging coal mines in New South Wales is abysmal. The Rocky Hill coal mine proposal was unquestionably damaging to Gloucester’s future and was opposed by the local community.
“This a complete double standard. The only time the Department thinks it’s important to have appeal rights, is when those rights are for a mining company to appeal a refusal, not for the community to appeal an approval.
“The Department of Planning needs to explain why it routinely snatches the right for the community to appeal against damaging coal mine proposals, and yet in this instance, left the door open for this company to drag the decision through court, causing more community angst.”
The Department’s letter to the Commission is available here: https://majorprojects.accelo.com/public/a19aee61238f1d670e46d37a8f59fc77/PAC%20Referral%20Letter_Signed.pdf