Almost two years since the Bylong Coal Project was first rejected by the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC), clients of the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) are once again heading to court to argue for the refusal of the mine to be upheld.
The Bylong Valley Protection Alliance (BVPA) will ask the NSW Court of Appeal to throw out a second appeal lodged by proponent KEPCO over the 6.5 million-tonnes-per-year greenfield coal project.
BVPA is a community group including farmers and landholders from the picturesque and fertile Bylong Valley, north-east of Mudgee in central-western New South Wales.
The group has been fighting for years to protect the Bylong community and environment from the impacts of the proposed open-cut and underground mine.
BVPA president Phillip Kennedy said:
“This area is home to the top 3.5% of agricultural land in the state of New South Wales. KEPCO’s industrial mine places important agricultural land in jeopardy.
“We need food security in this country more than we need foreign multinationals digging up one off resources.
“The Bylong Valley is a unique little valley – there are underground streams between four and six metres below the surface that we’re able to tap for food security and fodder production. This proposed mine would compromise that.
EDO’s Managing Lawyer of NSW, Rana Koroglu, said:
“This has been a long journey for our clients who first won the refusal of this mine back in September 2019, including on climate grounds.
“The Bylong Valley Protection Alliance then had to argue to be allowed to join KEPCO’s first appeal, in order to defend the IPC’s decision making.
“Having won that case, and then won the subsequent appeal in the Land and Environment Court, our clients now face a further court hearing in the Court of Appeal.
“We will once again ask a court to uphold the IPC’s decision to refuse this mine and protect the beautiful Bylong Valley.”
The Bylong Valley coal mine is a proposed 6.5 million tonnes-per-year open cut and underground thermal mine, planned by Korean company KEPCO in an area of New South Wales known for its scenic beauty and agricultural productivity.
The local community has fought against the mine for years, supported with legal advice and representation from the Environmental Defenders Office.
In September 2019, the NSW Independent Planning Commission found the mine was contrary to the principles of ecologically sustainable development, cited impacts on groundwater, agricultural land and aesthetic, scenic, heritage and natural values in its Statement of Reasons for the refusal.
Acting for the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, 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.
While the IPC declined to defend its decision on the basis it may compromise its impartiality, in May 2020 the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance successfully applied to become a full party to the judicial review, represented by EDO.
The judicial review was heard in the NSW Land and Environment Court in August 2020 and in December 2020, KEPCO’s appeal was rejected.
A further appeal against the NSW Land and Environment Court decision was lodged by KEPCO in March 2021, to be heard by the NSW Court of Appeal on 25 August 2021.
EDO is grateful to barristers Stephen Free SC and Rebecca McEwen for their assistance in this matter. Matt Floro is the Senior Solicitor with carriage of the matter, and the NSW Managing Lawyer Rana Koroglu is the supervising solicitor on the record.