Hume Coal faces stiff resident opposition

COCKATOO Coal’s plans to explore and mine hard coking coal in New South Wales’ Southern Highlands have been set back by the Land and Environment Court refusing to order a nearby landholder to give the company use of his privately owned access road.
Hume Coal faces stiff resident opposition Hume Coal faces stiff resident opposition Hume Coal faces stiff resident opposition Hume Coal faces stiff resident opposition Hume Coal faces stiff resident opposition

Drilling at a Cockatoo coal tenement.

Lou Caruana

The court dismissed the application by Cockatoo subsidiary Hume Coal last week and listed the matter for directions this week because there were several serious issues to be tried over the company’s request to access Carters Lane in Sutton Forest.

While a final hearing on the matter is not likely until early next year, local opponent Southern Highlands Coal Action Group hailed the decision as a victory.

The property is surrounded by several expensive homes, including that of Hollywood star Nicole Kidman and her singer husband Keith Urban.

Hume Coal external affairs manager Kelly Lofberg reportedly told the Illawarra Mercury that the court decision meant there were issues in the dispute that needed to be further heard.

"While we are disappointed that all of the issues raised in the course of the case have not been resolved today, we will continue to argue our case strongly at the final hearing and remain confident there are no legal impediments to our accessing this property," Lofberg reportedly said.

"We hope this matter can be resolved quickly in the new year so that we can finalise our exploration."

At its annual general meeting Cockatoo said it expected the completion of the Hume project prefeasibility study, the commencement of the Hume environmental impact statement and renewal of NSW exploration authorisations this year.

Cockatoo manages the Hume project on behalf of Hume Coal in which Cockatoo has a 30% interest. The other 70% is owned by Korean steel giant POSCO.

“Exploration activities continue at Hume, identifying areas of high quality coking coal,” Cockatoo chairman Mark Lochtenberg said at the AGM.

In a note to its AGM presentation Cockatoo said: “Cockatoo Coal’s planning concepts are subject to successful delineation of required coal resources, timely delivery by third parties of proposed rail and port capacity expansions, capital availability, approval and compliance within all relevant regulatory frameworks, financial feasibility and other key inputs.”

Last month Hume Coal announced the results of an internal review of its drilling program in the southern highlands.

Hume Coal said it was confident the feasibility of the project could be determined by accessing approximately 10% of the properties within its authorisation.

Hume Coal project manager Tim Rheinberger said the review included a detailed examination of historic exploration data collected since the 1960s and the additional 74 boreholes drilled by the company since May 2011.

“Our aim has always been to reduce the overall impact of our activities on the community by minimising the total number of properties we need to access,” he said.

“Currently we have land access that will allow exploration across approximately 21 per cent of A349.

“After a detailed review of historic data and the 74 boreholes drilled since May 2011, Hume Coal is now confident in finalising our exploration and determining if the project is viable by accessing around 10 per cent of the properties in the authorisation area.

“Given there are more than 400 properties in the authorisation we believe this is a good outcome allowing us to provide certainty to the community while minimising the number of private properties accessed.”

The company said the review identified a small number of additional properties which, combined with those Hume Coal had already negotiated to access, should provide sufficient data to determine the feasibility of the project and provide a comprehensive assessment of the region’s groundwater.