In the red corner, Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Coal. In the blue corner, environmental activists and property owners around the proposed Alpha Coal Mine site.

At the end of round 5, Hancock Coal just delivered a blowknock-down in the form of a Supreme Court of Queensland judgement.

The proposed Alpha Coal Mine is a joint venture by GVK, an Indian conglomerate whose sectors range from life sciences to transportation, and Hancock Prospecting, chaired by the richest Australian today, Gina Rinehart.

According to the GVKHancock joint venture, the mine would generate approximately 4,500 jobs and over $40 billion in taxes and royalties over the 30+ life of the projects.

The opposers to the project, including graziers around the mine site, argued that the Alpha project would “cause serious environmental harm to the global climate system”, impacting negatively on biodiversity and the local agricultural industry among other things. The Land Court of Queensland delivered its judgement on 8 April 2014 in favour of Hancock Coal, but that was not the end of the legal battle.

On the 4th September 2015, Justice Douglas delivered his decision in the Supreme Court of Queensland dismissing the application for appeal in favour of Hancock Coal.

Here is what you need to know.

1. The appeal was made against two decisions.

The Coast and Country Association of Queensland (CCAQ), environmental activists appealed against the Land Court’s decision, and the granting of an Environmental Authority by the Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection.

2. CCAQ challenged the Land Court decision on two main grounds.

First, they submitted that the Land Court decision was not valid due to a misapplication of legal tests by the court.
Second, they challenged the Minister’s granting of the Environmental Authority, arguing that the decisions lacked finality, and was not done through the correct legal processes.

3. There are still several hurdles that need to be overcome before the Alpha project goes ahead.

While the latest Supreme Court decision is favourable, we do not yet know if there will be a further appeal. Further, GVKHancock has to work with the department of the Queensland Minister for Mines towards getting issued a mining licence.

See here for the press release on the decision.

Let us know what you think of the Alpha project by tagging us @lawpath or #lawpath.

Dominic Woolrych

Dominic is the CEO of LawPath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.