A group of Illawarra residents has dropped a legal challenge against Gujarat NRE's longwall mining operations at Russell Vale because they cannot come up with $40,000 in security.
Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining (IRRM) launched court action against Gujarat in June, claiming the company began mining at its No 4 longwall before it had received proper planning approval.
The mining company lodged a notice of motion with the Land and Environment Court, seeking to have IRRM provide $75,000 as "security for costs" in case the group lost the case and was ordered to pay Gujarat's legal costs.
Land and Environment Court judge Justice Terry Sheahan later ordered the group to put forward $40,000 as security, saying the matter would not proceed to a hearing until the money was forthcoming.
IRRM spokeswoman Kaye Osborn said a notice of discontinuance for the group's case was filed with the Land and Environment Court on December 13, with each party agreeing to bear its own costs.
"As a result of this development, IRRM's case will not be heard in the courts," she said.
"This is regrettable - the judgment confirmed that the case had reasonable chances of success and recognised the public-interest nature of the matter. However the group does not have access to $40,000."
Ms Osborn said she hoped these "cost orders" would not be a tool used by large corporations to silence the little guys.
"The capacity of ordinary people to have their cases examined through the legal process is being eroded by these cost orders initiated by large multinational mining companies," she said.
"It's an erosion of the democratic process, which is very concerning. If this continues then it increases the responsibility of the state government to be very vigilant in the approvals that it awards."
Gujarat NRE declined to comment.