THE decision of the O'Farrell government to cancel the coalmining licences at the centre of the ICAC inquiry was the right one to make. Corruption and coal are not a good mix.
Where does this leave other communities battling against mining expansion?
The frustration of those who are objecting to new and expanding mine projects comes from the fact that the laws determining their future are biased towards the interests of mining companies.
In many areas these mining companies have lost their social licence to operate.
Many judge successive NSW governments that have changed the law to assist the mining industry as morally corrupt.
Over more than a decade state Coalition and Labor governments have ignored community concerns and changed their policies and legislation at the behest of the coal companies. The most infamous change came in 2005 when Labor with the support of the Coalition brought in Part 3A to the planning legislation.
This meant that the Minister for Planning could ignore environmental and heritage laws and the advice of the director-general of planning to approve mining and other projects.
Part 3A became so notorious that the Coalition went to the last state election promising to repeal that section of the act. While that happened, the Coalition, once in power, crafted planning laws that still deny a meaningful role for communities. And they have gone a step further.
The Coalition has declared that economic factors - rather than community or environmental ones - should be the primary consideration in the approval process. This sits comfortably with the current practice of mining companies.
The NSW Minerals Council regularly engages in what I consider creative writing on the contribution mining brings to NSW, including employment figures. This was one of the reasons the Warkworth mine approval was overturned.
In the Warkworth case, mining giant Rio Tinto has appealed the judgment of the NSW Land and Environment Court, and is at the same time attempting to rush through an approval for a smaller project in the same area.
The NSW mining approval processes are inadequate and communities are rallying against them.
The mine at the centre of current controversies - Maules Creek - was approved by the federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, without any independent evaluation of the offsets proposed by Whitehaven as a payoff for the 544 hectares of critically endangered box gum woodland that would be clear-felled as a result of the mine.
As is so often the case - and will be increasingly so following the federal government's funding cut to the Environmental Defender's Office - the Northern Inland Council for the Environment, which took this issue to court, was not successful. And despite appeals from the traditional landowners, the Gomeroi elders, for the minister, Greg Hunt, to intervene in the mine's construction in order to save their cultural heritage, work has begun on clearing the forest for rail infrastructure to service the mines.
Leard State Forest, home to 34 threatened species and one of the largest intact stands of the critically endangered box gum ecological community, will be hard hit by this mine.
The Maules Creek mine is predicted to cause a drop in the water table of five to seven metres. It will produce 18,000 tonnes of dust annually, which will threaten residents' ability to collect water from their roofs to drink. The coal burnt from the mine will produce 30 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution each year.
The ICAC cannot judge the activities of the Coalition government in approving new coal projects as corrupt because the law has not been broken. But that does not mean these projects should be approved.
Community members and environmentalists have been camping at the site for more than 500 days.
They are supported by farmers concerned about the impacts on the diversity of the local economy and on water. These people are protecting our future.
Coal is the industry of the past. Governments need to listen. They need to start investing in a diversified economy that will sustain our water, our land, and our communities for the long term.
Lee Rhiannon is a Greens senator.