Appeal against Rio Tinto Mt Thorley coal mine expansion dropped

A local community group has dropped its long running appeal against Rio Tinto’s proposed Mt Thorley Warkworth extension.

This removal of appeal brings to an end six years of ongoing battles between the mine and community and environmental groups.

The Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association  (BMPA)dropped its appeal to the Land and Environment Court after the Planning and Assessment Commission approved the project and former planning minister Pru Goward removed ongoing appeals capacity against the project.

Goward removed the capability for groups to appeal against project on their apparent merits, instead forcing objections to be judicial review cases based on the review of procedure, according to the Singleton Argus.

“After six and a half years and two successes in the courts the BMPA has discontinued its legal proceedings that were challenging the November 2015 decision by the Planning Assessment Commission to approve Rio Tinto’s Warkworth mine expansion,” the BMPA said.

“Our legal team EDO NSW has advised us that after inspecting all of the documents in the government offices provided as part of the proceedings our grounds of challenge to protect the uncertain future of the Warkworth Sands Woodlands would not be able to succeed in the court.

“EDO NSW advises that in their view the Planning Assessment Commission, following the advice of the NSW Department of Planning, did all that they were required to do under the law to protect the critically endangered Warkworth Sands Woodland.”

It went on to add the BMPA will now consider “direct peaceful action”, having last year stated it would carry out civil disobedience against the mine.

“This could be the beginning of the end for Bulga but we are committed to using civil disobedience, if necessary, to frustrate this expansion, both for Rio Tinto and any future buyer of the mine,” Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association (BMPA) president John Krey said following the final approvals in November last year.

Lock the Gate voiced its disappointment over the decision to halt legal action.

“We’re devastated by this news,” it said.

“This community has fought for over six years to save their village from the Warkworth coal mine. They twice beat Rio Tinto and the Government in court, twice showed that on merits, this project will do more harm than good. But their victories were cruelly snatched away from them by a government that seems more intent on appeasing the whims of a coal industry in its death throes, than on protecting the health and livelihoods of Hunter communities.”

Rio Tinto stated that this was good news for the operation.

“We welcome the certainty this provides for the 1300 people who work at Mount Thorley Warkworth and the hundreds of local businesses that supply the mine,” a Rio Tinto spokesperson told Australian Mining.

“Mount Thorley Warkworth will continue its normal operations, in keeping with approval granted by the independent Planning Assessment Commission.

“We are committed to working with local communities to ensure a strong future for the region.”

According to Rio Tinto documents, the current operation is more than 4.5 kilometres from the township of Bulga and under the current expansion it would end up 2.6 kilometres from the town by 2031.

The documents added that hundreds of hectares of the Warkworth Sands Woodlands – a main sticking point with many environmental groups – would remain untouched, with a focus on regenerating areas of the site.

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