Gloucester Resources lawsuit (re mine’s impact on climate change, Australia)

The Australian mining company, Gloucester Resources (GRL) planned to open a coal mine near Gloucester, Australia and lodged a development application for consent on 18 December 2012. The “Rocky Hill Coal Project” would produce 21 million tons of coal over up to 21 years.

On 14 December 2017, the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission (Commission) rejected the proposal on the basis that the proposed open-cut mine will harm the quality of life of the residents and was not in the public interest. GRL was granted the right to challenge the project's refusal in court, which is unusual. On 19 December 2017, GRL filed an appeal. On 23 April 2018, the local community action group “Gloucester Groundswell” joined the court proceedings and both the Commission and Gloucester Groundswell raised that the “Rocky Hill” mine project is incompatible with the existing, approved and likely preferred uses of nearby land and has adverse social impacts on residents.

On 8 February 2019, the New South Wales Land and Environment Court upheld the government’s denial of the application. It ruled that the economic and public benefits of the mine were not shown to be greater than the public costs of the mine and it concluded that the Rocky Hill Coal Project is not in the public interest because “it is contrary to the principles of ecologically sustainable development because the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions of the mine will contribute to climate change.”.

This is the first case where the court highlights the climate impact of coal mining. Justice Preston noted the "significant adverse social impacts on the community" from the proposed mine. He also stated in his judgment that "the construction and operation of the mine, and the transportation and combustion of the coal from the mine, will result in the emission of greenhouse gases, which will contribute to climate change". GRL expressed disappointment at the court’ refusal of the mining application because “the Department of Planning, and the Planning Assessment Commission, both found the project met all non-­discretionary criteria, and on this basis GRL felt compelled to pursue the project,”, according to GRL Chief Operation Officer, Mr. Brian Clifford. GRL said it will assess the implications of the decision and consider its next steps.

Wrong Place Wrong Time: Key Implications of the Gloucester Coal Mine Decision, White & Case LLP, 20 Feb 2019

Commentary: Coal miners derided climate action 'sideshow'. Now it's the main event, David Morris & Brendan Dobbie, NSW Environmental Defenders Office, on Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), 15 Feb 2019

Australian Judge Rejects Coal Mine on Climate Grounds, Karen Savage, Climate Liability News (US), 8 Feb 2019

Gloucester Resources Limited to review Rocky Hill Coal Mine refusal, Anna Keen, Manning River Times (Australia), 8 Feb 2019

We won': Landmark climate ruling as NSW court rejects coal mine, Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), 8 Feb 2019

Land and Environment Court reserves its judgment in the Rocky Hill coal mine case, Matthew Kelly, the Herald (Australia), 6 Sep 2018

Court documents

[PDF] Gloucester Resources Limited v Minister for Planning [2019], Land and Environment Court, New South Wales (Australia), 8 Feb 2019

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

Article
20 February 2019

"Wrong place...wrong time" - Key implications of the Gloucester coal mine decision

Author: Tim Power, White & Case LLP

What happened?

The Chief Judge of the NSW Land and Environment Court in Australia has upheld the decision of the NSW Minister for Planning's delegate to refuse planning approval for the proposed Rocky Hill Coal Project near the town of Gloucester.

 Why is it important?

The Court's decision is, as far as we are aware, the first time an Australian project has been refused on the basis that it will "increase global total concentrations of greenhouse gas (GHG) at a time when what is urgently needed…is a rapid and deep decrease in GHG emissions."

The climate change aspect of the Court's decision has understandably been the subject of most of the media interest in Australia. Even if the case isn't appealed, its approach is likely to be the springboard for legal challenges to other resource, energy and industrial projects around Australia, and possibly elsewhere given the extent to which the judgement draws on overseas and international judicial precedent. As touched on in this newsletter, one key unresolved issue is how the approach taken by the Court would apply to other projects with direct and indirect GHG emissions, in particular future fossil fuel developments.

However, it would be a mistake to dismiss it solely as a "climate change case" and ignore its consideration of broader environmental and socio-economic impacts, especially as the project was also refused on these grounds. The analysis of these issues could have broader implications for the assessment of resource and energy projects throughout regional Australia...

Read the full post here

Article
15 February 2019

Commentary: Coal miners derided climate action 'sideshow'. Now it's the main event

Author: David Morris & Brendan Dobbie, NSW Environmental Defenders Office, on Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

"Coal miners derided climate action 'sideshow'. Now it's the main event", 11 Feb 2019

The nascent field of climate litigation in Australia came of age on Friday. The Chief Judge of the NSW Land and Environment Court, Brian Preston, delivered a landmark judgment refusing to approve a new coal mine because of its impacts on climate change. In the Chief Judge’s words, the mine proposal was in the wrong place at the wrong time...

The ramifications are likely to ripple out across Australia and possibly the world. This is climate litigation writ large...

...[W]hat his judgment says about climate change is of greatest significance. The court accepted the evidence put by Professor Will Steffen about the global carbon budget – that is, there is a limit on the amount of fossil fuels that can be burnt if we are to meet the Paris Agreement targets and avoid dangerous climate change...

Read the full post here

Article
8 February 2019

Australian Judge Rejects Coal Mine on Climate Grounds

Author: Karen Savage, Climate Liability News (US)

In a landmark decision, an Australian court on [8 February 2019] rejected a plan to build an open-cut coal mine because of the proposed mine’s harmful effects on climate change…

The decision stopped a controversial plan by Gloucester Resources Limited to build its proposed Rocky Hill coal mine just outside Gloucester, a town of about 3,000 people. The proposed mine would have extracted up to 2 million tons of coal a year for the next two decades. The mine, first proposed nearly a decade ago, was rejected by the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission in December 2017, but Gloucester Resources was allowed to appeal.

The Environmental Defenders Office of New South Wales, which represented the community group Groundswell Gloucester during a hearing last August, argued that the mine was detrimental to the interests of the surrounding community, would worsen climate change and would prevent Australia from meeting the emissions targets it promised to the Paris Climate Agreement…The court agreed, ruling that even though the mine would contribute only a fraction of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, any contribution to a worsening climate was enough to halt the project…

Gloucester Resources did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Chief Operating Officer Brian Clifford said he is disappointed and the company is reviewing its options. The decision is anticipated to have widespread ramifications for future fossil fuel projects…

Read the full post here

Article
8 February 2019

Gloucester Resources Limited to review Rocky Hill coal mine refusal

Author: Anna Keen, Manning River Times (Australia)

New South Wales Land and Environment handed down its determination to refuse the development application for the Rocky Hill Coal Project on Friday(February 8) in its Sydney courthouse. Although GRL chief operating officer, Brian Clifford was unable to attend court due to prior out of state commitments, he said he was disappointed that the court had refused the mining application.

Mr Clifford said GRL appealed the Department of Planning and Environment’s refusal of the project because the extensive environmental assessment over five years had concluded that the project could proceed with conditions and met all non-­discretionary criteria as set out by the NSW Government...

Gloucester Resources Limited will assess the implications of the court’s decision and consider its next steps.

“The Department of Planning, and the Planning Assessment Commission, both found the project met all non-­discretionary criteria, and on this basis GRL felt compelled to pursue the project,” Mr Clifford said...

Read the full post here

Item
8 February 2019

Gloucester Resources Limited v Minister for Planning [2019]

Author: Land and Environment Court, New South Wales (Australia)

[full text of the judgment]

Read the full post here

Article
8 February 2019

We won': Landmark climate ruling as NSW court rejects coal mine

Author: Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

Environmental groups are cheering a decision in NSW's Land and Environment Court that found the emissions of greenhouse gases and resulting climate change from a proposed coal mine were among the reasons to reject the project.

Brian Preston, chief judge of the court, handed down his judgment in a case between Gloucester Resources Ltd and the NSW Planning Minister in Sydney on Friday. He concluded the mine project was "in the wrong place at the wrong time".

He dismissed an appeal by developers of the controversial Rocky Hill open-cut coal mine near the Mid North Coast town of Gloucester against any earlier planning rejection...

Justice Preston noted the "significant adverse social impacts on the community" from the proposed mine but - in a court-first in Australia - highlighted the climate impacts of coal mining...

Brian Clifford, chief operating officer for Gloucester Resources said the company was disappointed by the court's decision after the mine had "met all the non-discretionary criteria".

"Gloucester Resources Limited will assess the implications of today’s decision and consider its
next steps,"...

 

Read the full post here

Article
6 September 2018

Land and Environment Court reserves its judgement in the Rocky Hill coal mine case

Author: Matthew Kelly, The Herald (Australia)

Gloucester Resources argued that climate change was “really a complaint about global geopolitical relations” and merits appeal in the Land and Environment Court over the mine’s refusal was “a most singularly inappropriate vehicle” for doing so...

 

Read the full post here