The Land Court has today rejected Indian mining giant Adani’s bid to make a conservation group pay legal fees for a failed court challenge against it’s $16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine.
Adani wanted legal costs from Coast and Country conservation group, after the Land Court denied their challenge to the proposed mine last year, but Land Court president Carmel MacDonald said it was not in the court’s jurisdiction to award costs in such administrative inquiries.
The decision reveals yet another deficiency in the many that infest in the court’s process, according to Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche.
“The Queensland Resources Council has been appealing to the state government to urgently overhaul the flawed system and today’s judgement in the Adani case, adds yet another piece of evidence to back that argument,” Mr Roche said.
“We want the Land Court to act like the administrative tribunal it is meant to be, enabling those in the community who are directly affected by a project to have their day in court to object, and then advise the minister of its recommendations.
“Instead, the current Land Court process lacks checks and balances, is too costly, too technical and too lengthy. As the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham recently said, ‘everyone deserves their day in court, but not four years in court’.”
President of the Land Court Carmel MacDonald today said the Supreme Court had previously found that when the Land Court heard objections to mining lease applications and associated environmental authorities it does not conduct a proceeding but rather undertakes an administrative function.
Additionally the judgement reads that the Land Court does not make a decision determinative of future rights but merely provides advice and recommendations to the relevant ministers who ultimately decide whether the mining lease or environmental authority should be issued.
“I have no doubt that after today’s decision, the green activists and the Environmental Defenders Office will be rubbing their hands together believing they have been granted a licence to rack up costs for resources companies using the Land Court, with no deterrent that if their case is ruled against, they could be liable for the other party’s costs,” Mr Roche said.
Coast and Country’s legal representative, Environment Defenders Office Queensland principal Sean Ryan, welcomed the Land Court’s decision not to award costs according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Community objections to mining are a normal part of the administrative assessment process; important to both the public interest and the protection of the environment,” Mr Ryan said.
“The Land Court’s decision sends a clear message that well-resourced companies can no longer use threats of costs to intimidate community groups into remaining silent with their objections.”