TWO photos are at the centre of a fraud charge against a Korean power company’s mining subsidiary and a controversial Hunter coal mine proposal.
Kepco Bylong Australia did not enter a plea on Tuesday to a charge of furnishing false or misleading information after a Division of Resources and Energy investigation.
Bylong property owner Craig Shaw complained after photos of flat paddocks were supplied by the company to support a drilling application on his property. He produced photographs of the actual sites showing steep, rocky terrain that Kepco had already conceded might require helicopter access for drilling to proceed.
Drilling sites are identified by global positioning systems. Consultant and exploration manager Worley Parsons Services was also charged with furnishing false or misleading information and has not entered a plea.
Mr Shaw, who is Bylong Valley Protection Alliance secretary, was relieved action had been taken, but concerned by a process that left him to check on the accuracy of material put to government departments.
“This legal action against Kepco is welcome. Kepco already has a worrying history of behaviour, both in Australia and overseas, and providing false photographs to gain approvals provides new cause for concern,” Mr Shaw said.
“If the allegations are proven, the public is entitled to ask whether this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Mr Shaw added that, had it not been for him insisting on seeing Kepco’s exploration application and scrutinising the detail, the Division of Resources and Energy may have accepted Kepco and Worley Parson’s declaration that the information provided was “true and correct”.
“If we had not been watching like hawks this may have been missed by the Department.”
The controversial Kepco Bylong project, one of the last remaining new coal mine applications in the country, is in the spotlight in the week serious questions have been raised about whether another controversial new mine in prime agricultural land – the Shenhua mine in the Liverpool Plains area – will go ahead.
The Kepco Bylong proposal has been strongly challenged by residents and environment groups across the country for its impact on water resources and agricultural land.
The court matters against Kepco and Worley Parsons will return to court in late April.