India's GVK wins court fight over Australian coal mine

Open cut coal mines, south of Blackwater, Queensland, Australia.
Robin Smith | Getty Images

Green groups lost a fight to stop billionaire Gina Rinehart and India's GVK from building a giant coal mine in Australia, as a court on Friday dismissed an appeal against the state of Queensland's environmental approval for the project.

Conservation group Coast and Country, originally working for three farmers, had sought to have the state environmental approval for GVK-Hancock's 30 million tons a year Alpha mine overturned based on the impact it would have on water supply and climate change.

The state Land Court last year ruled that the mine should be approved with strict water management conditions or rejected.

But the green group appealed that decision to the Supreme Court saying the Land Court did not have the right to issue two alternative recommendations and should have rejected the mine outright.

The Queensland Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on Friday.

The ruling eliminated one hurdle for the $10 billion Alpha mine, rail and port project, which has effectively been put on ice until it obtains a mining permit and overcomes a lack of funding due to a slump in coal prices.

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"We are pleased the court has clearly ruled that our project has continued to follow and comply with all regulatory and legal processes," GVK spokesman Josh Euler said.

The state government, which wants new mines to be developed in the untapped Galilee Basin to promote jobs, has yet to issue a mining permit for the Alpha project, but has said it would be subject to existing water management rules.

The Supreme Court decision was a blow, said Bruce Currie, one of the farmers represented in the case.

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"Justice has not been done. If this mine goes ahead, it risks draining away the groundwater that our lives and businesses depend on," Currie told reporters outside the court in Brisbane.

The Queensland Resources Council on Friday launched an advertising campaign urging communities to sign a petition calling on the state to protect mining jobs against green groups looking to delay new projects.

The Alpha project is 50-50 owned by Rinehart's Hancock Coal and GVK, with a small portion of GVK's stake owned by GVK Power & Infrastructure.