Environmental defenders say Wollongong Coal not ‘fit and proper person’

Environmental activists have launched a fresh attack on Wollongong Coal in the attempt to cancel the company’s mining rights in NSW.

Lock the Gate Alliance, working through the NSW Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO NSW), has petitioned NSW minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts to use the Mining Act to declare Wollongong Coal as not being a ‘fit and proper person’.

Such a move would extinguish Wollongong Coal’s mining rights for Russell Vale and Wongawilli Coal.

At present Wongawilli Coal licences ML 1565 and CCL 766 have expired as of October 9, and renewals are being sought by the company.

In a letter to the minister, EDO NSW principal solicitor Sue Higginson argued that Wollongong Coal is a loss-making company with a $657 million shortfall in net assets as of March 2015.

“We are instructed that it [Wollongong Coal] has a revolving door of senior management and has closed its traditional coal mining business,” Higginson said.

Wollongong Coal’s links to Indian multinational Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) have been listed as key to the case for Wollongong Coal not being a fit and proper entity.

JSPL’s track record was identified as being one of non-compliance with the law in both India and Australia, and also includes allegations of criminal conduct, such as the shooting of environmental campaigner Ramesh Agrawal by Jindal Power security staff.

Wollongong Coal is currently in a trading halt as a result of being suspended from official quotation on June 1 for failure to lodge a preliminary report to the ASX for the March 2015 quarter.

Mine workers from the Russell Vale colliery have recently gone on the record to voice concerns that the mine has been neglected by Wollongong Coal, with a number of roof collapse incidents in the past 12 months.

Workers have identified the dangers of corrosion in roof bolts as a result of water leakage, as well as the potential risk to swamps and creeks above the mine, and have said the mine will “turn into a death trap.”


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