KOREAN energy company KEPCO has accused the NSW Independent Planning Commission of denying it procedural fairness after the commission raised serious last minute concerns about its ability to make a final decision on the KEPCO Bylong coal mine proposal.
The Korean Government-backed company sought an urgent meeting with the commission in a letter on August 20, after the commission in July raised concerns that a lapsed 2014 scientific panel consent meant it could not make a final determination.
On August 19 the commission advised KEPCO it would address the issue in its final decision which is expected at any time.
In several strongly-worded submissions in July KEPCO disputed the commission's preliminary view that it could not approve the state significant development in the absence of a Gateway Certificate "that is current at the time of the determination".
It also criticised the commission for the length of time it had taken to assess the proposal.
The Bylong mine Gateway Certificate - one of the first in the state to be issued in 2014 under a new planning scheme requiring proposals in agricultural areas to be assessed by a scientific panel - expired on April 15.
The issue was raised by Lock the Gate Alliance which questioned the commission about the expired certificate.
In its letter last week KEPCO said it had not received "any response or comments" from the commission after forwarding legal advice supporting KEPCO's view that the commission could make a final decision despite the lapsed Gateway Certificate.
It said it had also not received a response from the commission addressing KEPCO's response to public submissions.
"As the proponent of the proposed Bylong Coal Project we consider we are owed a duty of procedural fairness by the IPC, particularly in circumstances where the IPC has advanced a preliminary view that is potentially adverse to KEPCO's interests... and the IPC has not further engaged with us as to whether it maintains or has abandoned its preliminary view," KEPCO chief operating officer Bill Vatovec wrote.
"In the circumstances, KEPCO repeats its request for an urgent meeting with the relevant IPC members to discuss the gateway certificate issue further and to ensure that it has a reasonable opportunity to present its position ahead of any determination by the IPC."
In one of its final submissions in June KEPCO alleged the NSW Government and Department of Planning "encouraged" a controversial $115 million land buy-up to reduce dissent over a Bylong Valley coal mine proposal.
It said it was "encouraged to acquire all of the land to be either directly or indirectly affected by the development" and had so far committed $750 million towards the project, after buying the exploration licence from Anglo American in 2010.
KEPCO invested more than $750 million to establish an underground and open cut mine in the valley between Denman and Mudgee, which included $115 million to buy properties including a church, the general store, the local public school, and significant private landholdings including historic Tarwyn Park, the company said.
"At no time in the development assessment process has there been a policy shift to suggest to KEPCO that the NSW Government's coal resource in the Upper Bylong Valley should not be mined," KEPCO said.
The company's purchase of more than 13,000 hectares of Bylong Valley has been heavily criticised by mine critics, including Bylong Valley Protection Alliance whose spokesman Warwick Pearse called it the "silencing of dissent".
The company proposes to run an open cut and underground mine complex for 25 years and mine up to 6.5 million tonnes of coal per year for use in the domestic Korean energy market.
The project would provide 450 jobs and deliver $278 million in royalties to NSW, KEPCO said.