Media release

Australia’s Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, is being taken to the Federal Court for failing to accept the climate risk of two proposed mega coal mines in NSW, as part of the landmark Living Wonders climate cases.

The Environment Council of Central Queensland (ECoCeQ) is fighting for the Environment Minister to acknowledge the substantial climate harm that new coal and gas is likely to cause our environment – and act accordingly.

ECoCeQ, represented by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA), has filed in the Federal Court seeking Judicial Review of the Minister’s decisions, effectively refusing to accept the climate risk associated with plans to extend the Mount Pleasant and Narrabri coal mines for decades to come.

These two proceedings filed by ECoCeQ are the first court challenges to a coal or gas decision made by Australia’s current Environment Minister.

The Environment Council argues the Minister made key legal errors when she refused to accept the climate harm these projects are likely to cause, as demonstrated in thousands of scientific reports, including from the IPCC and her own department.

ECoCeQ is asking the Court to determine that the Environment Minister’s refusal to accept the scientific evidence of climate risk as relevant when assessing two giant coal mines in NSW was illogical, irrational and unlawful.

The Environment Council launched the landmark Living Wonders legal intervention last year, requesting Minister Plibersek reconsider the climate impacts from 19 coal and gas proposals on thousands of Matters of National Environmental Significance.

These Court challenges raise the crucial question whether the Minister is required to accept the climate impacts of new coal and gas on 2121 nationally significant species, places and ecological communities that are found across Australia from the outback to the ocean, from ancient forests to koalas in our gumtrees, from the beautiful reefs to the Australian Alps.

Find out more through the Living Wonders website:


President of the Environment Council of Central Queensland, Christine Carlisle said:

“For all Australians, and our children, we are bringing the fate and future of our Living Wonders before the Court.

We believe the Minister’s recent decisions to treat the climate harm from these mega-mines as insignificant was wrong in law and in science.

We must act now to avoid climate catastrophes – from droughts to floods and bushfires, that will harm all of us and our iconic Living Wonders.

We cannot simply wait and hope that governments will listen to the science and do the right thing. If they won’t act, then we must. The science is clear. Burning coal and gas fuels dangerous climate change.”

Environmental Justice Australia Senior Lawyer, Retta Berryman said:

“Our client argues the science is clear: coal mine proposals like Narrabri and Mount Pleasant pose serious and irreversible threats to our climate and to thousands of threatened animals, plants and places across Australia.

If successful, this case could mean all new coal and gas plans must be properly assessed for their climate risk to our environment. Until now, this hasn’t been the case, despite the legal requirements.

Our client argues the Minister should have registered the harm these projects are likely to cause. They say that the Minister’s refusal to accept and apply the science from the IPCC, other authoritative sources and even her own department, was irrational, illogical and unlawful.”

The proposals

Narrabri Underground Mine Stage 3 Extension Project: Whitehaven plans to extend underground mining operations at the Narrabri thermal coal mine until 2044.

Mount Pleasant Optimisation Project: MACH Energy plans to expand open cut thermal coal extraction at its Muswellbrook Mount Pleasant mine site until 2048, making it the largest open cut coal mine in NSW.

The Mount Pleasant coal mine is backed by an offshore manufacturing billionaire, opposed by Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull, and will produce up to 21 million tonnes of coal each year.


For media inquiries, please call or email Jem Wilson on (03) 8341 3110 or [email protected]