Bylong Coal Mine Project Defeated A *Third* Time

KEPCO Bylong coal mine

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. KEPCO did just that and has failed yet again in its efforts to establish a coal mine in New South Wales’ Bylong Valley.

The Bylong Valley, near Mudgee in the state’s central west, looks to be a very pretty spot and hosts good agricultural land. KEPCO Bylong Australia wanted to establish open-cut and underground mine near the village of Bylong that would have seen 6.5 million tonnes of coal ripped out of the ground each year.

This coal would then be shipped to South Korea where it would be used to generate electricity in KEPCO’s coal power stations. South Korean government backed KEPCO, an acronym for Korea Electric Power Corporation, is a pretty big deal in its home country, having a monopoly on power transmission and distribution and is also a major electricity generator.

Bylong Valley locals and their supporters banded together to oppose the project, forming the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance. BVPA was represented by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), the largest environmental legal centre in the Australia-Pacific.

KEPCO lodged its Development Application for the mine in July 2015. In October 2018, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DoPE1 ) published a recommendation stating the project could proceed with conditions, and referred it to the Independent Planning Commission.

On 18 September 2019, the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) announced its decision to refuse the project. Grounds included the proposal failing to contain steps minimising greenhouse gas emissions2 and adverse effects on groundwater resources to the greatest extent practicable.

KEPCO’s subsequent appeal of that decision in the NSW Land and Environment Court was dismissed in December last year. But KEPCO wasn’t ready to admit defeat, then challenging that decision in the NSW Court of Appeal.

Yesterday, the NSW Court of Appeal upheld the decision and ordered KEPCO to pay BVPA’s costs. The full judgement can be viewed here (pack a cut lunch before attempting to read it). It’s likely Federal Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt won’t be impressed with the result given his passion for coal.

EDO: Time For KEPCO To Walk Away

While KEPCO may get full marks for persistence, it’s probably time it got the hint. Commenting on the decision, EDO Managing Lawyer Rana Koroglu said:

“This is the third time this destructive and climate-wrecking coal mine proposal has been defeated – first in the Independent Planning Commission, then in the Land and Environment Court, and now in the NSW Court of Appeal. It’s time for the proponent KEPCO to walk away.”

This victory is another great example of people power prevailing over coal power. Another recent major win was the IPC giving a thumbs-down for the Hume Coal project  in New South Wales’ Southern Highlands. The community had a significant role in this outcome, with nearly 83% of the total submissions received objecting to the project.

In other related news, Australian doctors have warned the Federal Government must significantly lift its game on climate change in an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Co-signed by the AMA, RACGP and a bunch of other health organisations, among its points is calling on the Australian Government to commit to an ambitious national plan to protect health by slashing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions in alignment with science-based targets this decade. Such a plan would include policies that acknowledge the health benefits of renewable energy and  accelerate the transition to renewables.


  1. It was quite a fitting acronym in this instance. In 2019, DoPE was abolished, with most of its functions merged with the Department of Industry activities to form the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
  2. Particularly Scope 3 emissions – those from the burning of the coal to generate electricity
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. Meanwhile, the NSW Government is considering whether to release the Hawkins and Rumker areas, not all that far from the Bylong area, for coal exploration:

    • Hawkins – an area of 149 km2 located approximately 26 km east of Mudgee and directly north of Rylstone; and

    • Rumker – an area of 178 km2 located approximately 37 km south-east of Mudgee and directly north east of Rylstone.

    The NSW Government announced on 24 Jun 2020 its Future of Coal Statement. It includes (on page 8):

    2. Supporting responsible coal production

    The NSW Government is already undertaking reforms to the planning system, some of which will provide greater certainty for coal mining proponents and the broader community. This includes amending the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to prohibit approval conditions relating to exports. Implementation of the findings of the recent review of the Independent Planning Commission will also improve certainty for proponents of major projects.

    In addition, the NSW Government will:

    • recognise existing industry investment by continuing to consider responsible applications to extend the life of current coal mines, and by streamlining the process for exploring new areas and areas adjacent to current mining operations to deliver a better economic return to NSW

    • consider releasing a limited number of new areas for coal exploration. These will be areas where there are minimal conflicting land uses, where social and environmental impacts can be managed, and where there is significant coal production potential. New areas identifed for coal exploration will be released through a transparent, competitive tender process whenever there are multiple operators who could develop the resource. Release of an area for exploration is not a guarantee of mining: proponents who may subsequently seek approval to mine will still have to obtain planning approval for mine proposals, which includes consideration of the environmental, economic and social impacts.

    It seems to me that the NSW Government is making it more difficult to stop more coal mining.

  2. According to the latest UN climate advice – which is summarized on this BBC news page here:

    “Scientists recently confirmed that to avoid the worst impacts of hotter conditions, global carbon emissions needed to be cut by 45% by 2030.

    But this new analysis shows that those emissions are set to rise by 16% during this period.”

    You don’t need any climate science qualifications at all order to notice the extreme weather events, droughts, floods etc already occurring just about everywhere you look around the world today, and that there seem to be far more of those than there used to be .

    Just look out the window at your garden and lawn which will be either dried out completely and has been for months or is covered in water and you are getting news of even more rain on the way.

    Nor am I a qualified meteorologist. . But emission levels being a whopping 61% above where they need to be in order to prevent the ‘worst happening’ suggests to me that things are going to get a lot ‘hotter’ ( the word ‘hotter’ has many different senses in colloquial speech); far sooner than anyone expects.


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