Environmental Law Australia

Wildlife Whitsunday case

This case involved a judicial review challenge against the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions from two coal mines in Queensland, Isaac Plains and Sonoma.

The case was filed in the Federal Court of Australia in 2005 by a North Queensland conservation group, Wildlife Whitsunday.

The group challenged two decisions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), which had held that the Isaac Plains Coal Mine and the Sonoma Coal Mine were not controlled actions under the Act (and therefore did not require further assessment under it).

The case was heard by Dowsett J, who dismissed the challenge on the basis that the decision-maker had considered the greenhouse gas emissions from the mining, transport and burning fo the coal from the mines as required under the EPBC Act.

A summary of the case and the need for law reform that is evidenced by it is available here.

A summary of the case and its implications by Allens Arthur Robinson (solicitors for one of the coal mines in the case) is also available here.

Following the case the mines commenced operations but the Isaac Plains Coal Mine suspended operations in 2014 due to a collapse in coal prices and a 50% share in the mine was sold in 2015 for $1 (having been purchased for $430 million in 2011).

Key documents

EPBC Act referrals

EPBC Act approvals & statement of reasons

Judicial review challenge

Media reports about this case

Aussie coal mine Isaac Plains snapped up for bargain basement price, just $1, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 July 2015.