Waratah Coal case
This case study involves judicial review proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia undertaken in 2008 by Waratah Coal Inc against a refusal of a $5.3 billion coal mine, railway and port by the Federal Environment Minister.
The proposal was referred on 31 July 2008 to the Minister, at the time Peter Garrett, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act).
The project involved establishing a major new coal mine, railway and port to export coal for electricity production. The coal was to be sourced from Waratah Coal’s mining tenements near the town of Alpha in the Galilee Basin, Central Queensland.
Waratah Coal had, at the time, identified an inferred resource of 3.12 billion tonnes of coal within its North Alpha (EPC1053) and South Alpha (EPC1040) mining tenements in the Galilee Basin. The open cut mine was intended to have an initial export capacity of 25 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), with the capability to expand substantially to 50 Mtpa and beyond.
The company claimed that, at coal prices prices at the time, the project would have "potentially generated over A$10B of export revenue and over A$900M royalties per year for the State of Queensland."
The proposal involved the construction of a major new coal export port in the Shoalwater and Corio Bay Ramsar wetlands, an undeveloped part of the Queensland coastline though part of a military training area. The area was listed as a wetland of international significance under the Ramsar Convention.
The Minister rejected the proposal on 15 September 2008 under s 74B of the EPBC Act, stating:
Waratah Coal applied for judicial review of the Minister's decision, arguing that the decision was invalid because it was outside of the time limit imposed by the EPBC Act.
Collier J dismissed the application, ruling:
Key documents in the case are:
Following the unsuccessful challenge to the Minister's refusal, the company submitted a revised proposal (EPBC 2009/4737) that no longer proposed to construct a rail link and coal export port in Shoalwater Bay Ramsar Wetland.