Law to scotch ‘corrupt’ mines welcomed

The NSW mining industry and anti-mining activists are united in support of proposed state laws that would give the government the power to cancel corrupt mining licences.

The bill – introduced and passed by the lower house on Thursday – was created in preparation for the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) report into coal mining rights at Doyles Creek and Mt Penny in the Hunter region.

Premier Barry O’Farrell said it was important the government is in a position to act on recommendations if necessary.

If the bill becomes law it would give the government the power to cancel or refuse to renew a licence or other mining title.

Mr O’Farrell said the government intended only to use the special power where the ICAC determined “serious corrupt conduct has infected … the granting of a licence or licence holder itself”.

Anti-mining coalition Lock The Gate Alliance welcomed the bill, saying the Doyles Creek and Mt Penny licences were “the result of corrupt behaviour” and should be scrapped.

“The Doyles Creek and Mt Penny coal leases are opposed by local people in these areas,” co-ordinator Steve Phillips said in a statement.

“The existing system of allocating coal exploration leases is broken.”

The sites were the subject of corruption inquiries which heard former mining minister Ian Macdonald rigged a 2008 tender process in granting a mining exploration licence on land owned by the family of another former Labor minister, Eddie Obeid.

Mr Macdonald also granted a coal licence to Doyles Creek Mining, contrary to official advice and without a tender.

The ICAC found Mr McDonald and Mr Obeid had acted corruptly.

NuCoal, the company that acquired Doyles Creek Mining, has called on the government to engage with it before ramming the new laws through parliament.

“We believe the government should consult with NuCoal before formulating any response to the final ICAC report,” NuCoal said in a statement to the ASX on Thursday.

“We urge the government not rush to any decisions about the future of the Doyles Creek project without such a process occurring.”

The government was being sought for further comment.

Peak industry body the NSW Minerals Council welcomed the government’s response, but agreed industry consultation was needed.

“A strong future for the mining sector is essential to the NSW economy but it cannot happen without a clear and robust regulatory system,” the council said in a statement.

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