More transparency required for coal permit assessments

NUCOAL Resources was granted an exploration licence for its Doyles Creek project in late 2008 but an external probity review revealed there was a lack of competition and transparency behind the successful permit application.

Blair Price

As part of a review ordered by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, O’Conner Marsden & Associates found that former New South Wales Resources Minister Ian Macdonald did not follow internal government advice to consider a more competitive allocation process.

A ministerial briefing back in February 2007 also covered the issues of the close location of the area to the Jerry Plains township and the Wollemi National Park.

The briefing further noted that the former Mine Safety council rejected a similar proposal to set up an associated training mine to the project back in late 1999, early 2000, according to OCM.

In May 2008, internal department analysis also concluded that the minister should consider a competitive allocation process for the Doyles Creek EL.

As part of its recommendations, OCM said all coal allocations with potential in situ resources of more than 100 million tonnes should face a mandatory competitive allocation process and also a public exposure test so the intent to grant an exploration title is well known.

MacDonald resigned a few months ago after he was found to have wrongly claimed more than $13,000 of travel expenses.

Former union heavyweight John Maitland led the Doyles Creek permit application process for NuCoal.

This year he made about $1.14 million from selling 4.76 million NuCoal shares.