Wollongong Coal being taken to court for its alleged failure to pay rent to the NSW Government comes at a bad time for the miner – it is already being investigated over whether it is a “fit and proper person” to hold a mining licence.
The state’s Resources Regulator announced on Thursday that it was taking legal action to try and recover more than $288,000 in unpaid rent and levies owed to it by Wollongong Coal.
It would be the latest in a string of court issues for the struggling miner, which operates mines at Wongawilli and Russell Vale.
The company has relied on parent company, India’s Jindal Steel and Power group (JPSL), for liquidity as it struggles to make money from its two Illawarra coal mines.
But the issue of whether it is a “fit and proper” corporate “person”, as mining law demands, may provide further problems.
This investigation, began last July by the NSW Resources Regulator’s chief compliance officer, has included financial records and questions about the company’s solvency, according to Resources Minister Don Harwin when the issue was raised in NSW parliament in March.
But with no further information since then, Mr Harwin was asked again on June 1 about the investigation.
Mr Harwin said he had asked for an update on the investigation, noting that a JPSL director had been investigation for alleged corruption in India, and “in light of recent events” an update was appropriate.
How the court development affects the “fit and proper” investigation remains to be seen.
The Resources Regulator is part of the Department of Planning and Environment. It was created so as to show a separation between the departmental units responsible for regulating mines, and those which focus on industry development.
When the Mercury revealed the “fit and proper” investigation last year, Wollongong Coal said the allegations were “baseless” but claimed it could not comment further.
Wollongong Coal has yet to update shareholders on the most recent legal action via its announcement page on the Australian Securities Exchange.
The penalty for breaching the Mining Act section is up to $11,000 for a corporation
The company did not respond to the Mercury’s requests for comment for this story.