Hume Coal’s namesake project in the Southern Highlands of NSW was promoted by the company as “low impact”.

By Samantha James

UNDERGROUND coal developer Hume Coal said it would not appeal a May decision by the NSW Land and Environment Court blocking the company from drilling on farmland owned by five families from the NSW Southern Highlands.

The landowners of five rural properties in Sutton Forrest appealed against a November 2015 decision by the court that allowed Hume prospecting rights on their properties. Chief judge Brian Preston ruled in favour of the landowners and ordered Hume to pay their legal costs.

POSCO-owned Hume released a statement detailing its “disappointment” in the decision but said it would not appeal it, electing instead to focus on finalising its mining lease application – which it submitted in late May.

“Hume has been undertaking exploration for coal on behalf of the State Government and people of NSW since 2011,” Hume stated. “During this time, the company has drilled 139 boreholes, with all drilling sites being rehabilitated to their original condition or converted to a groundwater monitoring asset.”

Hume project director Greig Duncan said that the Land and Environment Court’s ruling on Section 31 of the Mining Act would have “severe ramifications for mining and exploration in NSW” and potentially “sterilis[e] highly valued and essential resources”.

Mr Duncan said an appeal of Chief Justice Preston’s ruling would be futile as the appeal decision did not address an earlier decision by Sheahan J in Hume Coal v Alexander (No 3) [2013] NSW LEC 58 that was clearly inconsistent with the appeal decision, “leaving the NSW mining law jurisprudence in disarray”.

“It is now up to the NSW Government to review the land access laws and regulations, so that the exploration industry can continue to progress opportunities, employment and the economy for the people of NSW,” he said.

Hume stated it would continue the progress of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with the aim of submitting to the government later this year.

“Despite the unfavourable ruling, Hume is focused on continuing down the approval path and delivering its low-impact mining project which has been designed to preserve and protect the region for future generations,” Mr Duncan said. “We will ensure our proposed development is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, and provides much needed economic growth for the region.”

Hume’s proposed 3.4 million tonnes per annum project would provide 300 permanent jobs.