The NSW Court of Appeal has found in favour of environmental group 4nature, in its court case against Springvale Mine’s extension approval, granted in 2015.
The group 4nature, filed a case in the Land and Environment Court arguing the approval to allow the mine to discharge waters into the Coxs River headwaters was not compliant with the 2011 State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), which dictates that any planning approval must have a “neutral or beneficial” impact on Sydney’s water catchment.
In September last year the court ruled against the environmental group.
However, in the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, August 2, three judges agreed unanimously that the approval was unlawful.
"This Court has instead been asked to determine a legal question. The question is whether the decision to approve development extending the mining operation at Springvale was within power,” Justice Leeming said.
The judgement explained that the commission had not correctly applied the test in determining the impact of Springvale’s mine water.
“The court ruled that the September 2015 approval of the Springvale coal mine was invalid,” 4nature spokesperson Andrew Cox said.
“4nature wants to find a reasonable resolution to the ruling. We are willing to sit down with the government to find a way that honours the intent of the judgment while addressing immediate safety and job concerns.”
Madi Maclean, president of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, said the ruling makes Springvale’s more recent plans to treat and reuse highly saline mine water in the Mt Piper Power Plant “even more urgent”.
“It’s a matter for the mine to work how they can get the treatment plant done,” she said.
“It’s a really big win protecting water in NSW. It’s basically saying Springvale sending polluted water into the Coxs River and Sydney’s catchment was not done according to the law.”
“It’s a powerful decision because it means the court has looked again and said it couldn’t lawfully make that decision because the mine’s discharge wouldn’t have a neutral or beneficial impact on the water supply.”
Lithgow Environment Group member Chris Jonkers said the mine had waited too long to act on water pollution concerns.
“For years, Centennial Coal, the Springvale mine co-owner, had known about the need to limit pollution from the mine entering the Coxs River. Instead the miner delayed tighter discharge rules that were due to start on 1 July 2017.”
More to come.