The High Court has dismissed a last-ditch appeal from Korean energy giant KEPCO to build a coal mine in the Bylong Valley.
KEPCO has now exhausted all available legal avenues to challenge a 2019 decision by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) to refuse the Bylong Coal Project.
“The battle to protect the beautiful Bylong Valley from this coal mine is over,” said Environmental Defenders Office (EDO Managing Lawyer Rana Koroglu.
“We could not be more delighted for our clients, the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, who have dedicated years of their lives to challenging this destructive and inappropriate coal mine proposal.”
The IPC had cited concerns about groundwater impacts and the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from the project put forward by Korean energy giant Kepco.
It also noted the Bylong Valley had a long history of farming, including horse breeding.
NSW Farmers presented its opposition to the project during the 2018 IPC hearing, stating there were unacceptable impacts to a “finite and special agricultural resource.”
The Muster reported in September last year that the NSW Court of Appeal decision also rejected the Bylong Coal Project. This came after the NSW Land and Environment Court declined an appeal for a judicial review in August 2020.
The company sought special leave in October last year to appeal to the High Court on the basis the New South Wales Court of Appeal made errors in its decision to dismiss the project.
The High Court declined to grant special leave to hear KEPCO’s appeal – a decision based on written submissions, including those by the BVPA, without the need for an oral hearing.
High Court Justices James Edelman and Michelle Gordan found that “the applicant identifies no question of principle which it would be in the interests of justice for this court to consider”.
“An appeal to this court would not enjoy sufficient prospects of success to warrant the grant of special leave to appeal,” they said in a statement.
Is it the end for the Bylong Coal project?
Bylong Valley Protection Alliance (BVPA) President and NSW Farmers member Phil Kennedy says the High Court decision is not the end of this epic ‘David versis Goliath’ battle.
“For now, it does mean our soils will remain the same, our air quality will remain, the scenic drive will remain and most importantly the underground aquifer in this valley will be the same,” Phil told The Muster.
“All of this was in jeopardy, so it’s a win for us as a small farming community and also a win for agriculture in NSW.”
Phil says the small group of farmers in the BPVA will stay active until there is “zero chance of mining happening and the land is sold.
“There is a chance KEPCO could put in a new development application and change the conditions, you just never know.
“What we need is certainty and that’s why we are calling on the state government to extinguish the mining licence and really put it to bed.”
Phil said the BVPA would also like input into the future of the 13,000-ha of land purchased by Kepco, which includes the local shop.
“More than half of the land in this Valley was bought by KEPCO and over half the population disappeared.”
The ultimate would be to sell the land in portions back to farming families.”
In a statement, KEPCO said it was “disappointed with the High Court’s decision to dismiss the special leave application”.
The company will now “take some time to consider its next steps”.
Phil Kennedy spoke to The Muster last year about the impact that the coal mine would have on the Bylong Valley community. Read more here.