Wrong map? No worries, here’s a coal licence: ICAC

Former union boss John Maitland has insisted he was passionate about a mining training facility and not a commercial operation, when he applied for a coal exploration licence at Doyles Creek in the Hunter Valley.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is currently questioning Maitland about the 2008 training mine submission which was approved by former mining minister Ian Macdonald without tender, despite his office advising against the decision.

The decision to grant the lucrative licence has been labelled a “gold mine” for the Doyles Creek Mining investors, at the detriment to NSW tax payers.

Despite insisting he was passionate about the Hunter training facility, Maitland yesterday told the ICAC hearing that he was not aware of how the proposed training mine would operate, what would be taught, or how much it would cost, SMH reported.

Counsel assisting the ICAC, Peter Braham, SC, posed the question: “Your passion was for the commercial mine wasn’t it?”

He continued “You’ve made a very large amount of money out of the commercial aspects of this enterprise haven’t you?”

To which Maitland admitted: “I’ve made some money”.

“[You’ve made] many millions of dollars haven’t you?” Braham asked.

‘'I have been fortunate,'' Maitland said.

Braham: ''That's really the source of your passion, isn’t it, the money?''

Maitland: ''No.''

It was also revealed yesterday that disgraced former mining minister Ian Macdonald has issued the coal licence to Maitland’s company even though the formal application included a map of the wrong tenement.

The map included showed an area known to have a far smaller amount of coal, just 70 million tonnes; whereas Doyles Creek has been estimated to contain between 300 million and 550 million tonnes of coal.

The ICAC is investigating why Macdonald overrode departmental advice to directly award the licence to Maitland's company, and the extent of the friendship between the two men.

Maitland yesterday interrogated at length over numerous flaws in the Doyles Creek Mining submission and acknowledged he was ultimately responsible.

''As chairman of the board, the buck stops with me,'' Maitland said.

However, Maitland has denied deliberately concealing the size of the mine and continues to maintain the errors in the submission were innocently made.

Braham accused Maitland of ''fabricating evidence'' to explain repeated instances in the application where the government was assured the commercial mine at the site would be only a small operation.

But after the licence was granted, Doyles Creek Mining was floated on the ASX as NuCoal, a move which generated a significant windfall of millions of dollars in shares, and saw Maitland’s portfolio grow to be worth as much as $14 million.

The inquiry continues.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.