Court rules coal mine approval invalid

Media Release  |   April 14, 2023

Conservationists today welcomed the 4nature conservation group’s successful legal bid that overturns the approved extension to the Springvale underground coal mine near Lithgow. Conservation group 4nature won its case in the NSW Court of Appeal, overturning the original decision in the Land and Environment Court that ruled in favour of Centennial Coal who operates this mine.

Environment groups wish to stop the mining giant from dumping millions of litres of polluted water into the Coxs River, a major tributary of Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s main water supply.

4nature spokesman Andrew Cox said:

“The win confirms for the first time that all developments must abide by the strict catchment laws designed to protect Sydney’s drinking water.”

“The court ruled that the September 2015 approval of the Springvale coal mine was invalid and all work on the mine should cease.”

“4nature wants to find a reasonable resolution to the ruling.”

“We are willing to sit down with the government to find a way that honours the intent of the judgment while addressing immediate safety and job concerns.”

Colong Foundation Director Keith Muir said:

“The court decision enables the Springvale mine plan to be reset so that national heritage, waterfalls and streams are protected, as well as Sydney’s drinking water catchments.”

“Centennial Coal incorrectly claimed its Springvale mine would cause negligible damage to streams and nationally endangered swamps. These errors must be corrected to ensure the outstanding heritage of the Gardens of Stone region is protected.”

Blue Mountains Conservation Society President Madi MacLean said:

“This decision creates an important precedent. Sydney’s drinking water catchment laws are not discretionary nor open to broad interpretation. The laws must be applied rigorously. Decision makers must ensure that developments will ‘maintain or improve’ Sydney’s drinking water quality.”

Lithgow Environment Group spokesperson Chris Jonkers said:

“For years, Centennial Coal, the Springvale mine co-owner, had known about the need to limit pollution from the mine entering the Coxs River. Instead the miner delayed tighter discharge rules that were due to start on 1 July 2017.”

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said:

“All mining companies and other developers in the catchment are now on notice. Their developments must not degrade Sydney’s drinking water quality.”


21/09/15NSW Planning Assessment Commission approves a 13-year extension of Centennial Coal’s Springvale mine. The approval permitted the extraction of 4.5 million tonnes of coal a year from 20 new underground longwall panels.

The approval permitted the company to discharge polluted water into the Coxs River. The mine will release 19 megalitres a day of waste water – containing salts, metals, nutrients and other materials.
18/12/15Environmental Defenders Office, on behalf of 4nature, files a case in the Land and Environment Court arguing the move was not compliant with the 2011 State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) covering Sydney’s drinking water catchment.

The policy permits approvals only for projects that have a “neutral or beneficial effect” on water quality in Sydney’s drinking water catchments.
10/01/16SMH article.
09/05/16Land and Environment Court hearing.
13/09/16Determination – courts rules against 4nature
11/10/16Environmental Defenders Office lodges a case with the NSW appeals court.
31/05/17Appeal hearing in the NSW appeals court.
2/08/17Appeal upheld