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NSW should refuse potentially unlawful coal exploration applications in the Namoi

The NSW Perrottet Government could be in breach of its own mining laws if it grants Whitehaven Coal two exploration licences for the area known as “Gorman North” near Narrabri, according to a legal review of the application.

At Lock the Gate’s request, the Environmental Defenders Office reviewed the circumstances behind Whitehaven’s two exploration licence applications in the region. The "Gorman North" area was opened to coal mining as a result of the government’s strategic statement on coal.

According to the EDO's findings, the application is potentially unlawful because:

  • The large size of the two connected exploration licences would breach the government’s own size limit for its so-called “operational allocation” framework, which allows an extension of coal exploration only over a limited area connected to a current mine and;

  • An advertisement placed by Whitehaven in the Sydney Morning Herald misled readers because it incorrectly stated “comments received that relate to mining will not be considered in this process”. 

A letter (available here) identifying these breaches was recently sent to the Deputy Secretary, Mining, Exploration and Geoscience Department of Regional NSW. 

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW coordinator Nic Clyde said the revelations showed the NSW Perrottet Government appeared ready to bend or break its own mining laws at the request of Whitehaven Coal.

“Whitehaven Coal has made an unlawful application to expand its coal operations in the Namoi without going through the Strategic Release Framework that would give the community a proper say. The Perrottet government needs to stand up for rural people and refuse these applications. 

“This company is a repeat environmental vandal with a criminal rap sheet a mile long. We’re not surprised to see this company bending the law again to sneak huge new coal exploration licences through the back door without community input. 

“The Perrottet Government must give the residents living in this part of the state the same opportunity afforded to those near Rylstone whose homes were also threatened by new coal mining areas. Any further coal exploration near Narrabri must go through the full Strategic Release Framework. 

“Just last week Deputy Premier Paul Toole made the welcome move to cancel a further two coal release areas near Wollombi and Rylstone. But this hodgepodge approach to coal in NSW is saving some while sacrificing others and creating planning uncertainty.”


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