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Gloucester Resources Rocky Hill open cut coal mine, NSW, Australia

In 2019, the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine in NSW was rejected in a landmark court decision in part because of its negative impact on climate change and social impacts on local residents and Aboriginal heritage.


In February 2019, a landmark ruling by the NSW Land and Environment Court rejected the proposed Gloucester Resources Rocky Hill open-cut coal mine on the grounds of climate change amongst other reasons. The judgment stopping the mining project near Gloucester in the Manning Valley on the mid-north coast of NSW was met with much excitement from the local opposition group Groundswell Gloucester, who had been mobilising against the proposed mine and other extractive projects for many years [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Gloucester Resources Rocky Hill open cut coal mine, NSW, Australia
State or province:New South Wales
Location of conflict:Gloucester
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Coal extraction and processing
Specific commodities:Coal
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Gloucester Resources Limited described the Rocky Hill coal project as a “comparatively small, modern open cut mining proposal” with a project site covering an area of around 830 hectares including the mining area and a private haul road linking it with the nearby Stratford Mining Complex [4]. The project proposal included mining up to 21 million tonnes of ROM coal and 13 million tonnes of product coal over up to 21 years. The vast majority of the product coal would have been used for steel production (more than 95%) [4]. The mined coal was to be sized and removed of excess rock before being transported via truck to the neighbouring Stratford Mine [4]. Here it was to be processed and dispatched to the Port of Newcastle from where it would be exported [4]. According to Gloucester Resources Limited, the project would have employed 110 people at its peak [4]. The town of Gloucester, close to the mining site, had a population of 2,975 people in the 2016 census [16].

Project area:830
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:2975+ (Gloucester population, census 2016)
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Gloucester Resources Limited (GRL) from Australia - Project owner
Relevant government actors:NSW Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Local opposition group: Groundswell Gloucester (
Lock the Gate Alliance (
Doctors for the Environment (
Green Party
Environmental Defenders Office NSW (
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Descendants of the Worimi elder Jack Cook and Jessie Brummy, First Nations of Gloucester and surrounding area
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsHealth problems related to dust from open-pit mine
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Fostering a culture of peace
Project cancelled
Proposal and development of alternatives:Groundswell Gloucester are encouraging the sustainable development of the region's tourism and long-standing agriculture industries as well as supporting renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels [17].

A year on from the Rocky Hill ruling, members of Groundswell Gloucester continue to be actively involved in several other climate initiatives and campaigns in both the local community and beyond, including the following: Connected Communities - for Social Impacts Justice, Lock The Gate, the North West Alliance, People for The Plains and the Narrabri community regarding CSG and coal, Save Westernport group (regarding AGL), The Next Economy and Hunter Renewal (LTG) regarding just transitions, as well as the issues on gas fracking/mining in the NT with LTG. Members of the group also regularly attend other events regarding climate or coal/CSG. Furthermore, Groundswell Gloucester have organised three 'Sustainable Futures' conventions out of which the group 'Energise Gloucester' has grown, working on a local solar farm and other green/just energy transition alternatives for the community [19].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The court ruling rejecting the Rocky Hill mine has been widely regarded as a landmark ruling in climate change litigation. The decision has inspired other campaigns to stop mining projects in NSW, such as the Bylong Valley coal mine, and it can largely be regarded as an environmental justice success. However, members of Groundswell Gloucester have cautioned against celebrating too early, as GRL's exploration license is still active and the company has announced they will assess further opportunities in the area. Furthermore, the recent legislative move by the NSW Government to prevent regional planning authorities from blocking mining projects based on emissions from coal once its burnt in the so-called 'Territorial Limits Bill' points to the continuous nature of the fight against extractive industries. Members of Groundswell Gloucester are actively opposing what has been described as an 'anti-climate' bill and spoke out as witnesses against it at a hearing in Sydney in February 2020 [18].
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[10] NSW Land and Environment Court (2019) Gloucester Resources Limited v Minister for Planning. ‘Balancing the benefits and the impacts of the mine.’ Paragraphs 686+699.
[click to view]

[2] Hosie, E. (2019) ‘NSW court blocks Gloucester coal development.’ Australian Mining, 11/02/19.
[click to view]

[3] Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (n.d.) ‘Gloucester Resources lawsuit (re mine’s impact on climate change, Australia).’
[click to view]

[4] Gloucester Resources (n.d.) ‘Rocky Hill Coal Project.’ Project website.
[click to view]

[5] McCarthy, J. (2019) ‘Gloucester residents have had a win against the Rocky Hill mine but they don't have certainty.’ Newcastle Herald, 18/12/17.
[click to view]

[6] McCarthy, J. (2019) ‘Gloucester Resources will not appeal a landmark court decision ending its Rocky Hill coal mine.’ Newcastle Herald, 08/05/19.
[click to view]

[7] Rubbos, L. (2017) ‘Gloucester residents anxiously await decision on revised Rocky Hill open cut coal mine proposal.’ ABC News, 24/05/17.
[click to view]

[8] McGowan, M. and Earl, C. (2019) 'We’re collateral damage': coalmine battle drains Gloucester residents.’ The Guardian Picture Essay, 17/02/19.
[click to view]

[8] McGowan, M. and Earl, C. (2019) 'We’re collateral damage': coalmine battle drains Gloucester residents.’ The Guardian Picture Essay, 17/02/19.
[click to view]

[9] Watts, J., Kite, J. , Manikas, M. and Eveleigh, K. (2019) ‘Rocky Hill Aboriginal Heritage.’ Groundswell Gloucester resources.
[click to view]

[11] Hannam, P. (2019) ‘These residents stopped a coal mine, made history and sent ripples through boardrooms around the world.’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 17/02/19.
[click to view]

[12] Bell-James, J. (2019) ‘Landmark Rocky Hill ruling could pave the way for more courts to choose climate over coal.’ ABC News, Opinion, 12/02/19.
[click to view]

[13] Goetze, E. (2019) ‘Mining companies feel the heat over climate change precedent.’ ABC News, 16/04/19.
[click to view]

[14] Cox, L. (2019) ‘Hunter Valley coalmine ruling buoys other anti-mine campaigners. The Guardian, 11/02/19.
[click to view]

[15] Cox, L. (2019) ‘NSW moves to stop mine projects being blocked because of their overseas emissions.’ The Guardian, 22/10/19.
[click to view]

[16] Australian Bureau of Statistics. ‘2016 Census, Gloucester.’
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[17] Groundswell Gloucester (n.d.)
[click to view]

[17] Groundswell Gloucester
[click to view]

[19] Gloucester Sustainable Futures
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Louisa Mathies, EJ Atlas, ICTA-UAB
Last update17/02/2020
Conflict ID:4915
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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