ICAC inquiry into corrupt mining continues

The Independent Commission Against Corruption yesterday heard the former mining minister Ian Macdonald intended to reopen a mining exploration tender in November 2008 to assist mining magnate friend Travers Duncan.

SMH reported ICAC was told that Duncan was one of seven investors in Cascade Coal, the successful bidder for the Mount Penny coal exploration licence.

Mount Penny was located on land owned by the family and associates of the Labor member Eddie Obeid, who bought three plots prior to the tender for an exploration licence was called.

Cascade later paid the Obeids $30 million for the land holdings and the Obeids are currently demanding that Cascade pay a second $30 million.

After holding the $1 million licence for 12 months Cascade attempted to on sell it to White Energy for $500 million.

Cascade Coal posed a vested interest in White Energy with several of its investors including Brian Flannery and Duncan were also directors in White Energy.

Jamie Gibson, Macdonald's former chief of staff, told the inquiry on Monday that prior to opening the tender process, Macdonald requested information specifically about the Mount Penny area; however he could not produce a reason as to why Macdonald would want such information.

The inquiry suggested to Gibson that he had discussed the reopening of the tender with senior departmental officers, saying its purpose was to assist Duncan’s company. Gibson said he didn’t recall such a discussion but that he couldn’t deny it.

Gibson was subsequently presented with an email exchange he had had with Macdonald’s former chief of staff Tony Hewson in December 2008, a conversation that took place whilst the department was still considering whether to reopen the tender process.

''Travers is having lunch with Ian. Hugely disappointing no answer 4 him!!!!!!'' Hewson emailed. To which Gibson almost immediately replied: ''There's problems with it mate – I'll tell you.''

Tianda Resources, owned by Macdonald’s associate Alan Fang was originally earmarked as the winning bidder and was also another of Hewson’s clients the inquiry heard

''It's quite likely that it could be in relation to that process [reopening the tender] but I certainly wouldn't talk to Mr Hewson about anything that he should not have knowledge of.'' Gibson told the inquiry on Monday.

Adding that when Macdonald and the upper house minister Obeid met, no staff members were present.

''Mr Obeid and Mr Macdonald dealt with each other exclusively,'' he said.

For reasons unknown at this time, the Tianda deal collapsed.

The inquiry continues today.

Australian Mining has been following the developments of the ICAC investigation, last week reporting the lucrative coal leases awarded by NSW former mineral resources minister was an example of one of the states most ‘shocking’ corruption cases.

Former Labor powerbroker, Eddie Obeid, has been suspended from the party after allegations that he stood to profit around $100 million as a result of alleged corruption involving mining exploration licences.

During the first day of the inquiry by ICAC it was alleged that in granting the coal licences, former mineral resources minister Ian Macdonald ensured coal assets were being "given away to friends, political supporters and business associates of the minister."

Image: Herald Sun

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