‘Australian first’ in legal challenge over Wallarah 2 mine approval on Central Coast

MINE MESSAGE: Opponents of Wallarah 2 held a protest rally outside Wyong Golf Club in November. Picture: David Stewart
MINE MESSAGE: Opponents of Wallarah 2 held a protest rally outside Wyong Golf Club in November. Picture: David Stewart

THE Wallarah 2 mine’s approval is under a cloud after the Environemntal Defenders Office on Monday lodged what it calls an Australian first legal challenge. 

The Environmental Defenders Office NSW has filed to challenge the validity of the Wallarah 2 longwall coal mine’s approval, granted by the Planning Assessment Committee earlier this year, in the NSW Land and Environment Court.

The community legal centre said its action, taken on behalf of the Australian Coal Alliance, would hear arguments about ecologically sustainable development principles of intergenerational equity.

The principle states that present generations should ensure environmental health is maintained or enhanced for future generations. 

It follows through on promises from Australian Coal Alliance spokesman Alan Hayes in January, when the project won approval, that court action would be considered to halt the mine. 

“The decision shows that NSW mine approval laws are inadequate and need to be urgently overhauled,” Mr Hayes said at the time. 

EDO NSW chief executive David Morris said the Planning Assessment Commission was required by law to consider the public interest in their approval. 

“In 2018, we say that requires them to turn their mind to the impacts decisions of today will have on future generations, and also to consider what we don’t yet know by applying the precautionary principle,” Mr Morris said. 

“Our client will argue that the PAC, when considering the Wallarah 2 project, considered neither … rendering the approval of this large coal project invalid.

“This case is by its very nature climate change litigation – and we’re seeing more and more of that in Australia.”

In January the commission approved the mine despite conceding the risk of serious and irreversible damage to the Central Coast’s water supply is real. 

The commission’s 89 conditions included the ability to shut down the mine if adverse impacts exceed expectations. 

Wallarah 2’s owner Kores is owned by the South Korean government and Korean and Japanese mining interests.

In an interview with the Lakes Mail last month, Wallarah 2 project manager Kenny Barry said the Planning Assessment Commission had assessed the mining project on three occasions, and had considered everything from the mine’s impacts on subsidence, water supply, flooding and species to its social and economic consequences.

“The PAC assessed the project on multiple occasions, upon its merits, and they came up with the same conclusion: that the mine should be approved,” Mr Barry said.