Wollongong Coal court case against Minister for Planning and the Planning Assessment Commission thrown out by Land and Environment Court

Wollongong Coal’s legal challenge to its problems getting approval to mine at Russell Vale has been thrown out by the Land and Environment Court, which found no validity in any of the miner’s claims.

A report by the Planning Assessment Commission which considered the effect of the mine’s expansion on the drinking water supply was found to have correctly applied the relevant factors.

The PAC review of the mine’s expansion application found that it could not have confidence in Wollongong Coal’s ability to provide scientifically sound information to support its application – so the risk of water loss remained uncertain.

Wollongong Coal had sued the Minister for Planning and the PAC, arguing on multiple grounds that the PAC had erred in the way it considered these environmental impacts.

It argued the PAC wrongly considered the impact of a new planning policy regarding the Sydney drinking water catchment, and that the PAC gave improper weight to the cumulative effects of mining on the environment.

But Justice Tim Moore of the Land and Environment Court dismissed each of the miner’s grounds, and awarded costs against the struggling miner.

Case dismissed: Whether longwall mining would have an unacceptable impact on the drinking water catchment around the Cataract Dam was at the heart of the challenge. Picture: Ben Langford

Case dismissed: Whether longwall mining would have an unacceptable impact on the drinking water catchment around the Cataract Dam was at the heart of the challenge. Picture: Ben Langford

Wollongong Coal said it was “disappointed” with the decision and will “consider its appeal options”.

Nic Clyde, campaigner from anti-coal group Lock the Gate, said the decision was a win for the people of the Illawarra, and a blow to the cash-strapped miner.

“Wollongong Coal had complained that the PAC had considered the Sydney Drinking Water policy in its review,” he said.

“This was entirely appropriate in a situation where development of this mine – as assessed by WaterNSW – would result in ‘unacceptable’ impacts on Sydney’s drinking water supply.

“It’s time the NSW Government delivered on their promise to end mining inside our water catchment, especially in the Special Areas where this project is proposed.”

Wollongong Coal company secretary Sanjay Sharma said the decision “does not prevent the progression” of the application to expand the underground mine.

The company would now consider how to proceed.

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