Climate Change, Coal Mining and the Law: The Rocky Hill Mine Case

Summary: In Gloucester Resources Limited v Minister for Planning [2019] NSWLEC 7, the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales refused consent to a new open cut coal mine in a scenic valley near to the country town of Gloucester. There were five areas of contention: compatibility with existing, approved and likely preferred uses of the land in the vicinity of the mine, visual impacts, social impacts, economic and public benefits and climate change impacts.
This presentation will address these contentions, the methodologies and evidence the Court heard in assessing the balance between the benefits and impacts of the mine, notably in relation to climate change impacts, as this was the first time an Australian court heard expert evidence about the urgent need to stay within the global carbon budget in the context of a proposed new coal mine and findings that lead to the refusal of consent. The Court’s decision on climate change has reverberated around the world. Administrative decision-makers have adopted a similar approach and climate change litigation is citing the decision in support.

Speaker Biography: Justice Preston is the Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales. Prior to being appointed in November 2005, he was a senior counsel practising primarily in New South Wales in environmental, planning, administrative and property law. He has lectured in post-graduate environmental law for nearly 30 years. He is the author of Australia’s first book on environmental litigation and 131 articles, book chapters and reviews on environmental law, administrative and criminal law. He holds numerous editorial positions in environmental law publications and has been involved in a number of international environmental consultancies and capacity-building programs, including for judiciaries throughout Asia.
Justice Preston is an Official Member of the Judicial Commission of NSW, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law, Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW and Honorary Fellow of the Environment Institute of the Australia and New Zealand. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by Macquarie University in 2018. He is a member of various international environmental law committees and advisory boards, including the interim governing council of the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of Sydney, Western Sydney University and Southern Cross University.
In 2019 Justice Preston was elected as a Visiting Fellow at Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford for the Michaelmas Term, and in 2020 has been elected to the Robert S Campbell Jr Visiting Fellowship at Magdalen College, University of Oxford for the Hilary Term.