A legal application by the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance (BVPA), represented by Environmental Defenders Office, to become a full party in the court case to defend the planning decision rejecting an open cut coal mine in the beautiful Bylong Valley has succeeded today.

The community group will now be able to challenge the coal company KEPCO’s evidence in court. KEPCO is appealing last year’s ruling by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) to refuse a new open cut coal mine. The IPC has declined to take an active role in defending its decision.

EDO CEO David Morris welcomed the court decision to admit the community group as a full party in court.

“We’re obviously very pleased that we’ve been successful in having our client joined to the court case as a full party”, said Mr Morris. “It’s vitally important that the local community, who would bear the brunt of the impacts if the mine goes ahead, have a full voice in court.

“This local community was so relieved when the IPC refused the mine last year, but will now have to fight to keep that outcome, and we’ve very pleased to be able to facilitate that opportunity.

“Our client wants to protect their beautiful valley, their farms and their heritage, from the destruction that would be wrought by the massive open cut coal project, proposed for the valley.”

The original ruling made by the IPC in September last year found the risks posed by KEPCO’s proposed coal mine to water, land, and future generations through its contribution to climate change were too great.

As a full party with legal representation by the EDO, the BVPA will be able to object to evidence presented by KEPCO, cross-examine witnesses and file their own evidence.

The case will be heard in the Land and Environment Court from 24 to 27 August 2020.

Read the Court decision here.

Background to the case

In September 2019, the IPC found that Kepco’s proposed Bylong Valley mine was contrary to the principles of ecologically sustainable development and cited impacts on groundwater, agricultural land and aesthetic, scenic, heritage and natural values in its Statement of Reasons for the refusal.

Acting for the BVPA, EDO lawyers had presented the Commission with expert evidence, including on the mine’s climate change impacts. In its Statement of Reasons, the commission said that the greenhouse gas aspects of the project were ‘problematical’.

KEPCO applied for judicial review of the decision in December 2019. In a hearing on 3 April 2020, KEPCO opposed full joinder of the BVPA to the case.