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Shenhua didn’t need a quarter of a billion dollars from NSW taxpayers: GIPA investigation

A document obtained under Freedom of Information laws that mining giant Shenhua tried to stop being released confirms there was no need for the NSW Government to use more than a quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayer funds to buy out half a mining lease owned by the company on the fertile Liverpool Plains.

Two years after first seeking information under the Government Information (Public Access) Act, Lock the Gate Alliance has obtained a key document that reveals Shenhua revised its application to renew its coal exploration licence on the Liverpool Plains and only sought renewal of 50% or less of its licence area, which is standard practice when mining licences are renewed.

The revised application for half the original lease area obtained by LTGA was lodged on 29 June 2017, two days after Minister Harwin was sent two deeds of agreement negotiated with the company. The contents of those deeds have never been made public.

NSW Energy and Utilities Minister Don Harwin announced two weeks later that the Government had “reached an agreement to protect the farming future of the Liverpool Plains by scaling back the section of the Shenhua Watermark Coal exploration licence that encroached on the flat fertile agricultural land of the plains.” 

The agreement cost the NSW taxpayer $262 million.

Shenhua attempted to stop the Government releasing the revised application under GIPA law, but the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal recently ruled in favour of releasing it.

LTGA spokesperson Georgina Woods said the documents confirmed Shenhua only wanted and needed half of its exploration licence area to proceed with the controversial Watermark coal mine project and there was no apparent reason for the NSW Government to pay $262 million in taxpayer funds to the company.

“With the release of this document we have confirmation that Shenhua revised its application for renewal of its Liverpool Plains licence and was seeking renewal of only 50% or less of the area,” she said.

“But we are still utterly in the dark about why the Government then gave this company more than a quarter of a billion taxpayer dollars for a licence renewal over land it apparently didn’t want anyway.

“The NSW public has never been told why the Government gave Shenhua $262 million dollars to renew its coal exploration licence and enable the company to proceed with its coal mine, which is one of the most controversial coal mines in NSW history. 

“It’s routine under the Mining Act for exploration licence renewal to cover half or less of the original area. Now we know that’s what Shenhua applied for on the Liverpool Plains, the Deputy Premier needs to come clean with the people of NSW about what exactly NSW got in return for the quarter of a billion dollars it decided to give away to this mining company.” 

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