SHADOW Minister for Resources Adam Searle is continuing his crusade to expose the surreptitious departmental cover-up over Ridgelands Coal Resources.
The Hong Kong-based mining company repelled Supreme Court action over a secret $5 million community fund by settling a case, launched by Muswellbrook Shire Council, late last year.
In its statement of claim, council alleged secrecy around the deed condition raised questions about whether NSW Government representatives “have not and do not care whether the local community obtains the benefit” of the clause.
At the time, Mr Searle described the Ridgelands case as “disturbing”.
And, almost 12 months later, he’s still waiting for an explanation from the Berejiklian government as to why the company’s exploration licence conditions of consent were not publicly known.
“Resources Minister Don Harwin has failed to explain why he or his department failed to respond to Labor requests for information – and who sought to interfere with them,” the Labor Leader in the Legislative Council said.
“In a recent Budget Estimates hearing, he could not say why there was no response by the Resources Regulator to these matters raised in correspondence of June 8, 19 and 22 by myself.
“Mr Harwin also failed to explain why a person in his agency sought to reduce the mining company’s financial obligation under the exploration licence and why that obligation was apparently cut from $5 million to $500,000 – before being reinstated.”
Mr Searle said the minister was either incompetent or complicit in a cover-up.
“Yet again, we see the Berejiklian government is allergic to openness and transparency, this time in the important resources portfolio,” he stated.
“Mr Harwin also failed to explain why the acting departmental secretary contacted me and informed me there would be no response to my letter or my subsequent correspondence on this issue.
“I raised very important matters of integrity and probity in the administration of mining licences in this state, whether there was improper conduct by any person within the relevant agency and whether the Resources Regulator had been asked to look into these matters.
“I received no reply, or any response, other than to be told I would get no response.
“It is just outrageous that such important issues would be ignored by the Berejiklian government, its Resources Minister and the relevant agency.
“I call on the minister to refer these matters for a thorough and independent investigation of these issues.”