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Issue #1745      August 24, 2016

Miner avoids criminal record, fine

Proponents of the Bylong Coal Project, prosecuted after deliberately providing false and misleading information to the NSW government about their exploratory drilling program, have had their charges dropped.

Korean state-owned miner KEPCO and its contractor Worley Parsons were prosecuted by the NSW Department of Industry’s Division of Resources and Energy (DRE) in last March, after it was revealed the companies had used fake photographs purporting to be of a Bylong property at which they were seeking permission to drill for coal.

The photographs were not of the property, and showed an environment completely unlike the area they were seeking permission to drill in. When DRE was alerted to this by the affected landholder, charges were laid against the companies.

However, in Downing Centre Local Court last week the charges were dropped after both companies lodged an “enforceable undertaking” promising not to do it again. In this way, the companies have avoided fines of up to $110,000, and criminal records.

“Where is this government’s commitment to enforcement and compliance of mining regulations?” asked Craig Shaw, the affected landholder that reported the breach. “These companies have been let off the hook. They have deliberately broken the law, but they will not be punished. KEPCO are free to continue with their plans to turn the spectacular and unique Bylong Valley into a mining complex.

“This is a shameful abdication of duty by the NSW government”, commented Steve Phillips, Hunter regional coordinator for the Lock The Gate Alliance. “They have completely failed to hold these companies to account for their actions.

“KEPCO have form when it comes to lying”, alleged Phillips. “They lied in their EIS about the predicted water impacts of their coal mine, saying it would not impact any private water bores when in fact it is modelled to impact over 20 of them.

“But why would KEPCO feel the need to tell the truth, when there is no punishment for lying? The Baird government is sending a message to mining companies that they can do whatever they please, with impunity. If they get busted lying, if they get busted breaking the law, no worries. Sign on the dotted line and you can get straight back to business.

“On the other hand, when local residents come out to protest the impacts of mining, they are met with the full force of the law. They are arrested. They are charged.

“When local residents defeat a mining proposal in court, the state government changes the law to ensure the mining company gets exactly what it wants.

“Is it any wonder that the public has completely lost faith in the fairness of mining laws in NSW?” asked Phillips.

Next article – The real face of exploitation

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