Bylong residents celebrate another win over coal company

Phil Kennedy, Bylong Valley Protection Alliance. Photo: Lock the Gate Alliance

In a win for residents and the climate, the NSW Court of Appeal on September 14 rebuffed South Korean mining company KEPCO’s bid to get its coalmine project going in the fertile Bylong Valley, west of Sydney.

The court heard KEPCO’s second appeal on August 25, which challenged the 2019 Independent Planning Commission’s decision to reject the mine. The IPC said it was concerned about the mine’s impact on groundwater and its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

The Court of Appeal backed the IPC, saying the project would cause “long lasting environmental, agricultural and heritage impacts”.

Managing lawyer with the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) Rana Koroglu said it was the third time the coalmine proposal had been defeated in the courts. “It’s time for the proponent KEPCO to walk away”, Koroglu told the September 14 Sydney Morning Herald.

“The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report delivered a ‘code red’ for humanity on climate. It’s clear we cannot afford to develop more greenfield coal mines at a time when the world needs to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, she said.

Bylong Valley Protection Alliance (BVPA) president Phillip Kennedy said he hoped KEPCO will heed the court’s decision and walk away. “I'd really like to see this valley that’s been purchased by KEPCO under the pretense of a proposed coalmine 10 years ago when they started [to be given back to the community]”, he said.

Kennedy and the BVPA are calling on the NSW government to “extinguish this [mining] licence and to put this to bed once and for all”.

Lock The Gate Alliance (LTGA) said on September 14 that the Berejiklian government must help buy back land KEPCO wanted to turn into a coalmine. It said that the Korea National Assembly Budget Office (NSBO) in South Korea was also pressuring KEPCO to “abandon the ill-conceived proposal”.

LTGA said the NSBO had revealed that KEPCO had lost US$405 million so far in its pursuit of mining the fertile valley. In January 2020, KEPCO’s board marked down the value of its Bylong mining rights from A$642 million to zero in a report to the South Korean stock exchange.

“The problem we have is that even with today’s win, we’re still not sure what will happen to our farmland, our heritage-listed valley and what’s left of our community”, Kennedy said.

LTGA said KEPCO has advised the South Korean government that it had an offer to purchase the land from agricultural interest.

[Sign an open letter to KEPCO’s Chief Executive Officer.]