Bylong residents celebrate another win over coal company

The fertile Bylong Valley, north-west of Sydney. Photo: Lock the Gate Alliance.

By JIM MCILROY

In a win for residents and the environment, the NSW Court of Appeal has rejected a bid by the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) to get its coal mine project going in the fertile Bylong Valley, approximately 300 kilometres north-west of Sydney by road. 

The 14 September decision followed KEPCO’s second appeal on 25 August, which challenged the 2019 Independent Planning Commission (IPC) 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.

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 coal mine proposal had been defeated in the courts. “It’s time for the proponent KEPCO to walk away,” Koroglu told The 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 the South Korean company would heed the court’s decision and walk away. 

“I’d really like to see this valley [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”.

The Lock the Gate Alliance (LTGA) said on 14 September that the Berejiklian Government must help buy back land KEPCO wanted to turn into a coal mine

It said the Korea National Assembly Budget Office (NABO) in South Korea was also pressuring KEPCO to “abandon the ill-conceived proposal”.

The LTGA said NABO had revealed that KEPCO had lost US$405 million (approximately $560 million in Australian dollars) so far in its pursuit of mining the fertile valley.

Image of the Bylong Valley Way, which traverses the fertile Bylong Valley. Photo: Caravan and Motorhome on Tour/Facebook.

In January 2020, KEPCO’s board marked down the value of its Bylong mining rights from AUD$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.

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

The LTGA has written an open letter to KEPCO’s Chief Executive Officer, Cheong Seung-il, which can be co-signed by members of public. The letter can be viewed and signed at www.lockthegate.org.au/kepco_open_letter.

An earlier version of this article first appeared in Green Left. It is republished here with the kind permission of Green Left.