Gloucester Resources Limited v Minister for Planning & Groundswell Gloucester Inc

Groundswell Gloucester, represented by EDO NSW, has been joined to proceedings that will determine the fate of the Rocky Hill Coal project, a greenfield open cut coal mine at Gloucester, in a beautiful valley near Barrington Tops in the upper Hunter.

Our client has been permitted by the Court to present expert evidence on climate change and the social impacts of this new mine.  This is the first time an Australian court will hear expert evidence about the urgent need to stay within the global carbon budget in the context of a proposed new coal mine. The Court will also hear anthropological evidence about the social impact of mining on the community.

In December 2017, the then Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) refused consent to the Rocky Hill Coal Project proposed by Gloucester Resources Limited (GRL). The PAC found that the Project was not in the public interest because of its proximity to the town of Gloucester, significant visual impact and direct contravention of the area’s zoning plans. 

The PAC also refused consent to a Modification of the consent for the nearby Stratford mine (operated by Stratford Coal Pty Limited (SCPL), a related company of Yancoal Australia Limited) that proposed the receipt, processing and railing of coal from the Project.  The PAC found that the Modification would have no critical purpose or utility outside the Project. 

Subsequently, GRL and SCPL appealed the refusal of consent to the Land and Environment Court. Our client, Groundswell Gloucester, sought to be joined to the proceedings.

Groundswell Gloucester is a non-profit community group formed by a group of Gloucester residents concerned with the environmental, social and economic future of the Stroud Gloucester Valley. Groundswell Gloucester strongly opposes the development of the Project.

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On 23 April 2018, the Land and Environment Court ordered that Groundswell Gloucester be joined to the proceedings brought by GRL. Groundswell Gloucester will now be allowed to bring in experts to present evidence on the mine’s detrimental impact on climate change and on the social fabric of Gloucester. In relation to the climate change ground, on joining Groundswell Gloucester, the Court noted that:

“GRL submits that the raising of the climate issue as proposed in a domestic Court if the Intervener were joined would not serve the purpose of improving this particular planning decision; and, instead, would be a “side show and a distraction”. I do not agree.”

The three week hearing is set down for 13-30 August 2018. 

Matt Floro, solicitor for EDO NSW, has carriage of this matter for Groundswell Gloucester and our Principal Solicitor, Elaine Johnson, is the solicitor on record.

We are grateful to barrister Robert White for his assistance in this matter.

 


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