THE NSW Independent Planning Commission has rejected the controversial Korean Government-backed Bylong coal mine in a landmark ruling because future generations will pay for today's benefits.
Long-term environmental costs of approving the mine, including the contribution to climate change, "will be borne by future generations" and was not in the public interest, the commission found in a long-awaited decision announced today.
"The commission is of the view that the distribution of costs and benefits over and beyond the life of the mine is temporally inequitable in that the economic benefits accrue to the current generation and the environmental, agricultural and heritage costs are borne by future generations," it found.
There was also a "reasonable level of uncertainty" about the economic benefits, the commission said.
The decision has stunned and delighted opponents of the mine between Denman and Mudgee after sustained pressure by mine owner KEPCO in the past year, including company claims it had spent $750 million on the project after encouragement from the NSW Government and Department of Planning.
The Independent Planning Commission rejected the proposal because of concerns about long-lasting environmental, agricultural and heritage impacts.
KEPCO proposed to develop an open cut and underground coal mine producing up to 120 million tonnes of coal over 25 years for Korean domestic energy market.
The commission accepted it would create more than 800 direct and indirect jobs, with nearly $280 million in royalties to the NSW Government and $600 million in annual business turnover.
But the negative impacts outweighed the benefits, the commission found.
They included the impact on productive agricultural land, after the commission rejected KEPCO's submission high quality agricultural soil could be rehabilitated, the impact on the heritage and landscape values of the Bylong valley, and climate change impacts.
The commission also considered concerns about long term impacts on groundwater were well founded.
"After considering all the evidence and weighing the community's views, the Commission has today (Wednesday 18 September 2019) determined to refuse development consent for the mine," the commission said in a statement.
A KEPCO spokesperson said the company was disappointed by the decision and reviewing the statement of reasons.
Landholders and community groups were jubilant after the decision, which comes nearly 10 years after KEPCO bought the Bylong mine exploration licence.
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said it was the right decision from the commission and "shows NSW is getting its priorities right, safeguarding strategic farmland and water resources from destruction and depletion for coal mining".
"We warmly congratulate the NSW Government on allowing this independent process to proceed to protect our precious land and water for the long-term," Ms Woods said.
"The Bylong Valley is a very special place, not just for the farmers that produce wool, beef, and fodder there, but for people around the state that recognise its extraordinary beauty and rich cultural and natural heritage.
"In a week when school children are preparing to strike from school for their future, we warmly welcome the Independent Planning Commission's recognition that this coal mine would be contrary to the principle of intergenerational equity.
"It was the wrong place for a coal mine, and this is the wrong time for NSW to be opening up new areas for coal exploitation as the world shifts away from coal in a bid to halt global warming."
Bylong Valley landholder and sheep farmer Phill Kennedy said he was "over the moon".
"This valley is hugely productive and stunningly beautiful. The productivity of the valley will also greatly increase when properties come back into private hands again, rather than those of KEPCO."