An application for three coal mining leases and two mining leases for related infrastructure. Although an Environmental Authority has already been issued, there were four objectors to the mining lease applications (MLAs), all owners affected by the MLAs.
Issues raised included, inter alia:
- Whether the MLA areas were sufficiently mineralised to warrant the grant of the MLAs and whether the other purposes identified were appropriate to warrant the area of land identified in the MLAs;
- If they were sufficiently mineralised, would there be an acceptable level of development and utilisation of the mineral resources within the area applied for;
- Whether the land applied for was appropriate in size and shape;
- If the term sought was appropriate;
- Whether the applicant had the necessary financial and technical capabilities to continue the mining operation under the proposed mining lease;
- Whether operations would conform with sound land use management;
- To what extent, if any, there will be adverse environmental impact.
An unusual feature of the hearing was that it occurred during restrictions imposed to mitigate risk related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing was conducted by videoconferencing and used an electronic document database. Instead of a physical site inspection, the applicant prepared a video presentation. The five expert witnesses gave oral evidence concurrently by videoconference. The hearing proceeded as scheduled and without delay. The judge noted, “This is due, in no small part, to the efforts of the parties, their solicitors and counsel. I note with pleasure, their collaboration in ensuring the best use of the Court’s time and resources under difficult conditions.”
John Ware (led by A Holt QC), instructed by Allens, appeared successfully for the applicant.
The judgment is published here.