NSW passes powers to cancel corrupt coal licences

The New South Wales state government has passed new laws on Thursday giving it the power to cancel coal licences which were at the centre of recent corruption investigations involving former Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption found Macdonald acted corruptly when granting exploration tenements over land owned by the Obeid family at Mount Penny in the Bylong Valley.

The watchdog also found Macdonald acted corruptly when approving another licence at Doyles Creek in the Hunter Valley to Doyles Creek Mining which at the time was chaired by former union official John Maitland.

Premier Barry O’Farrell introduced a bill on Thursday morning which gives the government the power to cancel exploration or mining licences.

Currently the Mining Act contains no general power to cancel a mining exploration licence in the circumstances where the granting of the licence or the licence holder is somehow tainted by corruption.

O’Farrell said the special power is only intended to be used where ICAC has determined that serious conduct has affected the granting of a licence.

He said the government had hoped ICAC’s report on what specific actions should be taken in regards to the licences under investigation would be available before parliament rose for recess.

It is now expects the ICAC report will be submitted in a number of weeks.

O’Farrell said it is important that the Government is in a position to take action when it receives the report.

Cascade Coal currently holds the Mount Penny licence and NuCoal holds the Doyles Creek licence.

Both houses passed the bill on Thursday.

The SMH reports a Cascade Coal spokesperson said the government's decision to consider cancelling the Mount Penny licence was ''neither fair nor good for the reputation of the state'' and flagged potential legal action.

A NuCoal spokesperson said the government should consult with the company before making a decision about the Doyles Creek licence.

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