Past Court Cases · Energy & Climate

Newlands coal mine ("Xstrata climate case")

10 August, 2007

EDO Qld acted for Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) in one of the first Australian cases addressing climate change. The case challenged the expansion of a large coal mine operated by Xstrata Coal. An initial loss in the Land and Resources Tribunal was successfully appealed, but the Queensland Government enacted special legislation to preempt the retrial.

  • Decision of the Land and Resources Tribunal: Re Xstrata Coal Queensland Pty Ltd & Ors [2007] QLRT 33
  • Decision of the Queensland Court of Appeal: Queensland Conservation Council Inc v Xstrata Coal Queensland Pty Ltd & Ors [2007] QCA 338

In 2005, Xstrata Coal applied under the Mineral Resources Act 1989 and the Environmental Protection Act 1994 to expand its Newlands coal mine in Central Queensland, west of Mackay. The company intended to extract 28.5Mt of coal over a 15 year period from the new mine area. The mining, transport and use of this coal for electricity or steel production would emit an estimated 84 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent.

QCC objected to the lease expansion, arguing that because the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the operation would contribute significantly to climate change, the lease expansion should not be granted unless Xstrata Coal was required to avoid, reduce or offset those emissions.

President Koppenol of the Land and Resources Tribunal dismissed QCC’s objection and recommended the mine be approved without any conditions regarding greenhouse gas emissions. He relied in part on material denying the validity of climate change science that was not presented in evidence, and came to his decision without informing the parties that he had formed a view contrary to that presented in evidence (climate change science had been accepted by both parties to the case).

QCC successfully appealed the decision in the Queensland Court of Appeal. The Appeal Court ruled that QCC had been denied natural justice because it had not been given the opportunity to address the material about climate change relied on by the Tribunal for its decision. The Appeal Court also found that QCC had been wrongly denied leave to amend its application. It ordered a retrial in the Land Court (which had subsumed the Tribunal).

However, four days after the ruling the Queensland Government passed special legislation (Mining and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2007) validating the approval of the mine lease. This had the effect of preventing the case from being reheard.

For more information see the following education site: http://envlaw.com.au/newlands-coal-mine-case/

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.

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