Environmental Law Australia

Anvil Hill Coal Mine case

This case involved a judicial review challenge to the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions from a large coal mine in New South Wales, the Anvil Hill Project (later renamed Mangoola Open Cut).

The mine is located in the Hunter Valley, 20 km west of Muswellbrook and when it was applied for it had an estimated coal reserve of 150 million tonnes. It was originally owned by Centennial Coal.

The greenhouse gas emissions from the Anvil Hill Project were also the subject of landmark litigation in the New South Wales Land and Environment Court, resulting in the decision in Gray v Minister for Planning [2006] NSWLEC 720. The litigation considered here involves a different case about the same project.

The case considered here involved a judicial review application in the Federal Court of Australia in 2007 by a community group, the Anvil Hill Project Watch Association Inc (AHPWA). The group challenged a decision made by a delegate of the Commonwealth Environment Minister under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) that the Anvil Hill Project was not a controlled action under the  Act. The group challenged the delegate’s decision that the mine would not cause a significant impact on any matter of national environmental significance protected under the Act due to the greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of the coal.

The trial judge, Stone J, dismissed the application. Her Honour held:

  • the delegate’s approach to determining whether greenhouse gases from the coal mine would have a significant impact on a matter protected under the Act contained no legal error;
  • the delegate’s approach to determing whether a listed threatened ecological community existed on the site contained no legal error; &
  • the Minister’s decision under section 75 of the EPBC Act does not involve a jurisdictional fact.

The Full Court dismissed an appeal against the second and third of these findings.

Xstrata acquired the mine in 2007 and renamed it Mangoola Open Cut. The mine is currently operated by Mangoola Coal Operations Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Glencore.

The mine commenced operation in 2010 and is expected to operate for 21 years. The run of mine (ROM) coal extraction rate was increased to 13.5 Mt per annum in 2014.

Key documents

EPBC Act application documents

Judicial review application

Appeal to the Full Court

Media reports about this case

Mangoola Open Cut newsletters, Glencore, 2008-

Mangoola Coal Mine: in focus, Australian Mining, 11 July 2013.