Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) is stepping up its efforts to get Australian government’s approval for development of a coal mine in Bylong Valley in New South Wales, Australia.
Standing KEPCO auditor Lee Jung-hee visited Australia from Aug. 4-10 to meet with Australian officials and ask for assistance in obtaining a permit to go ahead with the development project.
KEPCO has a 90 percent stake in the Bylong mine while its five power generation affiliates (Korea Midland Power, Korea Western Power, Korea Southern Power, Korea South-East Power and Korea East-West Power) hold a 2 percent stake each. The approval of the development project has been delayed for nine years due to opposition from local environmental groups and residents. They argue that mine development will cause water pollution and emit greenhouse gases, fueling climate change. Last month, they held a street march, calling for reconsideration of the development project. They also filed an anti-development petition with the Australian government.
The backlash from the environmental groups and residents has intensified following a court rejection of a coal mine development project at Hunter Valley, which has been promoted by mine developer Gloucester Resources. In February, the New South Wales Land and Environmental Court ruled against the project saying that the project would ramp up greenhouse gas emissions.
Due to a long delay in obtaining the permit, the environmental evaluation certification KEPCO has obtained for the Bylong project expired in April. The certification was based on a comprehensive evaluation of the project’s impacts on farmland and groundwater. The Australian Independent Planning Commission, which has the authority to approve mine development projects, says that it cannot approve the development of the Bylong mine without an environmental evaluation certificate. This means KEPCO’s development plan needs to undergo another round of review.
KEPCO is using local networks to break through the deadlock. In November last year, KEPCO president Kim Jong-gap met with the mayor of the city governing the Bylong area and the Australian Department of National Resources to drum up support for the project.