The Gloucester community is rejoicing following the release of Justice Brian Preston’s judgment in the Land and Environment Court today where he rejected the development of a new open cut coal mine on the edge of the town.
Gloucester Resources Limited (GRL) first proposed the Rocky Hill Coal Project in 2012. The mine would extract 2.5million tonnes/annum of coal. However, due to strong opposition the then Planning and Assessment Commission (PAC) refused approval to the mine in 2017.
The NSW Department Of Planning and Environment in its own assessment of the project had also recommended against it gaining approval due to the adverse impacts on the Gloucester community. This was a rare decision by the Department as it routinely recommends mine approvals quoting the sentence the benefits outweigh the impacts of the project.
GRL appealed the PAC decision in the Land and Environment Court. That appeal was refused by Justice Preston.
Gloucester Groundswell’s John Watts described the decision as a complete victory adding it would stick in reference to the fact that a previous judgement by Justice Preston rejecting the expansion of the Warkworth mine near Singleton (2012) was eventually overcome by the Government making changes to state planning regulations that put economic benefits above social and environmental impacts.
“This is a comprehensive victory against an unacceptable proposal that would have had significant and adverse impacts on Gloucester,” Mr Watts said.
“Justice Preston also found the impacts of this project on climate change were unacceptable. He found this mine was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Mr Watts said the judgment was also critical of the impacts the mine would have had on Aboriginal culture and heritage.
Justice Preston said in his decision “I have determined that GRL’s development application for the Rocky Hill Coal Project should be refused. The mine will have significant adverse impacts on the visual amenity and rural and scenic character of the valley, significant adverse social impacts on the community and particular demographic groups in the area, and significant impacts on the existing, approved and likely preferred uses of land in the vicinity of the mine. The construction and operation of the mine, and the transportation and combustion of the coal from the mine, will result in the emission of greenhouse gases, which will contribute to climate change. These are direct and indirect impacts of the mine. The costs of this open cut coal mine, exploiting the coal resource at this location in a scenic valley close to town, exceed the benefits of the mine, which are primarily economic and social. Development consent should be refused.”