A local community group has begun legal action challenging the validity of the review of the Environmental Protection Licence (EPL) for Maules Creek Coal Mine by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in June this year.

It is the first time a court has been asked to determine what the EPA’s responsibilities are when it comes to regulating deadly greenhouse gases caused by coal mining, including methane.

Maules Creek Community Council (MCCC) has launched legal proceedings in the NSW Land and Environment Court seeking to have the EPA’s review of the EPL ruled invalid. [1]

MCCC will argue through its lawyers, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), that the EPA failed to consider all of the pollution generated by the mine and its environmental and public health impacts before renewing the licence.

The group will also argue the EPA was required to consider the litany of environmental breaches Maules Creek Coal Pty Ltd and associated entities have committed over the past eight years.

MCCC spokesperson Ros Druce said: “Since 2015, Maules Creek Coal Mine has frequently and flagrantly breached various environmental laws and licence conditions.

“These breaches have resulted in more than $750,000 in fines and the issuing of at least 11 penalties, cautions, clean-up orders and prevention notices, as well as enforceable undertakings.

“We believe Maules Creek Coal Mine has proven by this record of non-compliance that it is not a fit and proper entity to hold an environmental licence under the terms of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act.”

Ms Druce said MCCC would also argue that the EPA failed to properly consider the environmental impacts of the mine’s operations, especially its emission of air pollutants.

These include toxic dust particles (PM2.5s, sulphur dioxide and heavy metals) and significant quantities of climate pollutants, particularly methane, which has a warming impact many times greater than CO2.

“The Land and Environment Court ruled in another case in 2021 that the EPA has a duty to take serious action on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change,” Ms Druce said. [2]

“We think the EPA has failed in that duty by renewing the Maules Creek mine’s EPL without properly considering the climate and other pollution impacts of this project.”

EDO Legal Strategy Director Elaine Johnson said: “This is the first time a court will be asked to determine what the EPA’s responsibilities are when it comes to regulating deadly greenhouse gases caused by coal mining, including methane.

“We know that coal mines in Australia produce large amounts of methane which is many times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to climate harm.

“The EPA has the power to directly control methane from coal mines, to reduce climate harm for all Australians, yet it is not treating methane as the dangerous greenhouse pollutant that it is.

“The EPA has an important role under the Protection of Environment Operations Act to ensure the health of our environment, our climate and the community when it reviews licences.

“Our climate is in crisis. Coal production and consumption is one of the major contributors to climate change, and represents an existential threat to our environment and the people of NSW.

“The mining of coal causes a number of pollutants to be released into the atmosphere and surrounding environment which poses direct threats to human health.

“It’s important to ensure that the EPA, when it reviews coal licences, has carefully considered the impact that coal mining has on the surrounding environment, people and the stability of our climate.”

EDO served the EPA and Maules Creek Coal Pty Ltd on Monday, September 4. Maules Creek Coal is owned by Whitehaven Coal (75%), Itochu (15%), and J Power (10%). [3]


[1] Summons (Judicial Review) – Maules Creek Community Council Incorporated V Environment Protection Authority. 31-8-23

[2]  Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action Incorporated v Environment Protection Authority [2021] NSWLEC 92

[3] Whitehaven Coal – Maules Creek Mine, company web site.  

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