The investigation into whether Wollongong Coal is a “fit and proper person” to hold a mining licence in NSW cannot be finalised until corruption proceedings against billionaire industrial Naveen Jindal are concluded in India, a regulator said.
The troubled miner has been under investigation by the NSW Resources Regulator for more than two years as to whether it has the competence, financial capacity and integrity to be allowed to mine.
Lee Shearer, the Regulator’s chief compliance officer, told a budget estimates committee in the NSW Legislative Council that there were delays from India.
Wollongong Coal Limited (WCL) is owned by Mr Jindal’s Jindal Steel and Power Group.
Labor’s Adam Searle has been pursuing Resources Minister Don Harwin over why the investigation has been taking so long, but had not received answers until last Friday’s committee session.
Mr Harwin passed Ms Searle’s questions to Ms Shearer, the relevant expert, who said the miner’s financial capacity “has been a concern for some time”.
But she said she could not say when the investigation would be completed.
“The fit and proper person really, at its heart, is about probity issues and a matter was referred to us last year about the primary shareholder, Jindal Steel and Power, and the director, Mr Jindal, in India and his referral, along with a number of other people, for corruption in India. That matter is still outstanding,” Ms Shearer said.
“We do not have a time frame because I am unable to ascertain when the matters within the Indian jurisdiction will be resolved.”
Ms Shearer said the Regulator was continuing to investigate WCL locally.
“It is not like we have started an investigation and put it on hold, waiting for India,” she said. “We are still assessing matters as and when they arise.”
“Whilst we have the fit and proper person inquiry investigation under way, we are not taking our foot off the pedal in respect of other actions that we can take. So we commenced a prosecution recently for failure to pay, which is hinging around the financial capacity.”
Mr Jindal’s accusations concern an alleged scam over the allocation of coal “blocks” in Madhya Pradesh.