Gloucester residents relieved to know GRL's Rocky Hill mine won't proceed

Gloucester residents celebrate on one of the properties closest to the proposed mine location. Photo Anne Keen
Gloucester residents celebrate on one of the properties closest to the proposed mine location. Photo Anne Keen

For some Gloucester residents, their lives have been in limbo for over 10 years.

They purchased properties overlooking the beautiful Gloucester valley, only to find out there were future plans for mining outside their windows.

When Gloucester Resources Limited announced that the "Rocky Hill Coal Mine will not proceed," there was a sense relief for residents of places like Jacks Road.

About 11 years ago, residents like Ed and Tina Robinson began to hear rumblings of an open cut coal mine planned for the valley behind their property.

Years later, gas wells began to appear with the prospect of a pipeline running across their backyard.

In early 2016, AGL's Gloucester Gas Project was abandoned and by the end of the year, GRL had lodged its second application for Rocky Hill, with extensive alteration based on the NSW Department of Planning and Environment's (DPE) recommendation.

After an independent Planning Assessment Commission refused the application, GRL lodged a merit appeal with the NSW Land and Environment Court.

For the Robinsons, it seemed like a never-ending fight that made them feel trapped.

"Our life has been dictated by mining," Ed explained. "We didn't have a future."

But on Wednesday, May 8, that all changed.

GRL announced its decision not to pursue its appeal option against the Land and Environment Court's decision to dismiss GRL's appeal against the Department of Planning and Environment's refusal of the development application for its Gloucester coal mine.

The decision was handed down in February 2019 and provided scope for GRL to appeal by the end of business on Wednesday, May 8. GRL had lodged its notice of appeal on March 5 which allowed the option to appeal by the May deadline.

"This means the Rocky Hill Coal Mine will not proceed," a GRL spokesperson said.

Ed and Tina Robinson are looking forward to planning their future.

Ed and Tina Robinson are looking forward to planning their future.

"I'm so delighted. I'm on a high," Tina smiled.

"We got our life back again. We can start planning.

"It's hard to remember what we used to talk about before all of this," she laughed.

For Ed, it has not quite sunk in yet.

"It's good to know it's over and done with," he said.

"But I keep wondering what they're going to do next."

They were joined by neighbours at their property, a place which had held protest camps against the gas wells, to celebrate.

Derek and Dianne Bardwell have been navigating a similar journey to the Robinsons, having moved from Sydney in 2003.

"We didn't come up here for a mine, we came here for the peaceful, beautiful surroundings," Dianne explained.

"It's been 15 years of uncertainty," Derek said.

If it had been approved, we would have moved."

Members of Groundswell Gloucester, the community group that represented the opposing residents in the appeal, and members of the Gloucester Knitting Nannas also joined in on the celebration.

Groundswell chair Julie Lyford, one of the key players in the fight against the mines, said she was really pleased with the result.

"What makes me happy is seeing all the residents relieved," Julie smiled.

According to Groundswell's lawyers, the Environmental Defenders Office, the decision to not approve Rocky Hill was the first time an Australian court had refused consent for a coal mine on the basis of its climate change impacts, and marked a giant leap forward in regards to impacts on communities and on cultural heritage.