Bylong coal mine refused - EDO NSW

New Bylong Valley coal mine refused – climate impacts considered

18 September: On behalf of our client, the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO NSW) warmly welcomes today’s decision by the Independent Planning Commission to reject the proposed greenfield Bylong coal mine, in part because of its projected greenhouse gas emissions.

This the first IPC decision in relation to a greenfield coal mine since the judgment of February 2019, when EDO NSW acted for Groundswell Gloucester to successfully stop the Rocky Hill coal mine, partly on the basis of expert climate science evidence. EDO NSW – on behalf of our client - commissioned expert evidence on the carbon budget from Dr Will Steffen and this was presented to the IPC.

David Morris, EDO NSW CEO, said, “This is another significant step towards avoiding dangerous climate change. We assisted our client, the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, to put forward equivalent expert evidence to that relied on by the Land and Environment Court when it refused the Rocky Hill coal mine at Gloucester in February.

“It is clearer than ever that the Rocky Hill judgment sets a best-practice standard when considering new fossil fuel developments. This mine would have been even bigger – in fact much bigger - than Rocky Hill, with concomitantly bigger carbon impacts. In helping to stop this development, we acted in the public interest to constrain emissions and climate change impacts.”

Warwick Pearse, Secretary of the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, said, “The IPC is to be applauded for recognising the need to consider the climate impacts of new coal projects. The serious threats to water and agriculture in the Bylong Valley have also been recognised by the IPC and they have decided that the long term, adverse and irreversible effects of coal mining in the Bylong Valley outweigh the short-term gain in local jobs.”

The Bylong proposal by KEPCO Bylong Australia Pty Ltd was for a mine with a life of 25 years, including both open-cut and underground longwall mining in a rural area. The proposed mine had been recommended for approval by the then NSW Department of Planning and Environment, which makes today’s IPC refusal particularly notable.

In its Statement of Reasons for Decision, the Commission found (in summary):

  • the groundwater impacts would be unacceptable
  • no evidence to support the Applicant’s claim that impacted Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land (BSAL) can be rehabilitated post-mining to BSAL-equivalent
  • given the expected level of disturbance to the existing natural landscape, the Commission does not consider that a recreated landscape post-mining will retain the same aesthetic, scenic, heritage and natural values; and
  • greenhouse gas aspects of the Project remain problematical.

“The Project is not in the public interest because it is contrary to the principles of ESD (ecologically sustainable development) – namely intergenerational equity because the predicted economic benefits would accrue to the present generation but the long-term environmental, heritage and agricultural costs will be borne by the future generations,” the Commission concluded.