Fred Nile’s support of Nucoal shareholders latest twist in long mining controversy

CHRISTIAN Democrat Fred Nile is pushing for shareholders in coal company Nucoal Resources to be compensated by the state for their losses over the cancellation of the company’s Doyles Creek exploration licence at Jerrys Plains.

Reverend Nile also wants the Supreme Court to render ICAC findings about the way the lease was granted to be made “null and void”.

Reverend Nile lodged a notice on Wednesday morning with the NSW Legislative Assembly, saying he intended to lodge two bills for debate.

Mr Nile has spoken a number of times in support of Nucoal shareholders and told the ABC on Tuesday of his intention to lodge the bills.

But the notice lodged yesterday does not name Nucoal or Doyles Creek, referring instead to “certain exploration licences” that were examined in the ICAC hearings Acacia and Jasper, which issued their reports in mid-2013.

Acacia involved Doyles Creek while the Jasper inquiry concentrated on the Mount Penny and Glendon Brook exploration areas in the Bylong Valley. The Mount Penny area was partly under land owned by then Labor MP Eddie Obeid, who was later jailed for corruption on another matter.

The Mount Penny and Glendon Brook leases were granted to a company called Cascade Coal, whose shareholders included mining magnate Travers Duncan, who took to the courts, unsuccessfully, to stop the release of the Jasper report.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian told broadcaster Alan Jones that she was prepared to reassess Doyles Creek, but any moves to mine there or in the Bylong Valley are likely to face huge environmental protests, given the increasingly hostile outlook facing the coal industry.

The push to have the Nucoal decision revisited comes after two major figures in the controversy – former Labor resources minister Ian Macdonald and Doyles Creek shareholder and former union leader John Maitland – were freed from jail in February.

The Director of Public Prosecutions told the Supreme Court in March that it would not challenge the appeal court verdict that overturned the convictions, but the two men still face retrials.

Nucoal chairman Gordon Galt thanked Reverend Nile and One Nation MLC Mark Latham on Wednesday for supporting Nucoal and its “innocent shareholders”, saying the bill would be introduced in the coming weeks.

Mr Macdonald’s Newcastle solicitor, Nick Dan, said last night that Mr Macdonald was “delighted” at Reverend Nile’s efforts, which he said could open the way for “people to be compensated for assets that were taken from them in unprecedented circumstances”.

Although the wording of the bill was not available on Wednesday night, sources familiar with the push said Reverend Nile was seeking the appointment of an independent arbitrator to look at a method of compensation, and the amounts of money that would be involved.

Given that Nucoal shares have traded at just one or two cents each since the loss of the Doyles Creek exploration licence – compared with a peak in January 2011 of 61 cents, a compensation claim could run into the many tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Cessnock Advertiser reported last year that Nucoal had about 3000 shareholders, including 500 in the Hunter region.

On Tuesday, Nucoal’s shares were trading at three cents each, meaning the company was valued by the market at $23.8 million. A share price of 61 cents – or 20 times Tuesday’s quote – would value the company at about $460 million, giving an indication of the sorts of losses a successful compensation claim might retrieve.

Ian Kirkwood
Newcastle Herald

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