Bengalla mine takes court action to stop greenfield Mount Pleasant mine at Muswellbrook

BENGALLA Mining has taken legal action to stop MACH Energy from further work on its Mount Pleasant coal mine project at Muswellbrook only months after MACH paid $220 million to Rio Tinto for the Mount Pleasant site.

Bengalla’s 40 per cent owner, New Hope, advised the Australian Stock Exchange on Wednesday that Bengalla was seeking an order in the Land and Environment Court restraining MACH from carrying out any further development for the Mount Pleasant project until MACH “satisfies terms of its development consent”.

MACH Energy managing director Scott Winter slammed the Bengalla move, saying the company “categorically rejects” it has not complied with conditions of consent and the proceedings are “without merit and will be strenuously defended”.

In a statement on Thursday Mr Winter said MACH Energy “is continuing the development of the Mount Pleasant Operation as planned, as we are entitled to do”. 

“All conditions of the development consent have been satisfied, and all approvals are in place for the development of the Mount Pleasant operation to proceed,” Mr Winter said.

“In July, 2016 the Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy acknowledged in writing that the relevant condition had been satisfied.”

Construction at Mount Pleasant was “well underway with about 200 workers currently based at site”, Mr Winter said.

All conditions of the development consent have been satisfied, and all approvals are in place for the development of the Mount Pleasant operation to proceed.

MACH Energy executive Scott Winter.

Mount Pleasant coal mine is a greenfield site immediately adjacent to Bengalla coal mine about four kilometres outside Muswellbrook. The then Urban Affairs and Planning Minister Andrew Refshauge approved the Rio Tinto project in 1999 after a commission of inquiry. Rio Tinto holding company Coal & Allied obtained modification approvals in 2011 but the mine did not proceed.

In September MACH Energy commenced a mining operations plan due for completion in December this year, and completed at least 13 environmental management plans for noise, air quality, blasting and other requirements of the original 1999 consent.

MACH Energy completed its $220 million purchase of Mount Pleasant from Rio Tinto on August 4, 2016. It has approval to produce up to 10.5 million tonnes of run of mine (ROM) thermal coal for international markets. It has reserves of 474 million tonnes.

Under the 1999 conditions of consent Mount Pleasant was required to consult with Bengalla over access and coal-carrying infrastructure. Specifics of some of the facilities were modified in 2011.

Mount Pleasant community consultative committee meeting minutes in September show Mount Pleasant “in discussion with Bengalla in relation to land access”

Mr Winter, a former Tinkler Group executive, told the Muswellbrook Chronicle in 2016 that production and construction at the site would be “in accordance with consent approval”, despite significant changes in community and environmental expectations since the 1999 approval.

“We have a fully-approved mine and we intend to work within our consent guidelines and there will be monitoring, evaluation and reporting,” he said.

MACH Energy is part of the Indonesian Salim Group.

A spokeswoman for Hope Energy, which owns 40 per cent of Bengalla mine, said there would be no further comment while the matter is before the court.