Anjali Sharma 16 of Melbourne’s School Strike 4 Climate and 7 other teenagers had taken Environment Minister Sussan Ley to court, claiming her approval of Vickery coal mine in regional New South Wales would violate her duty of care to them and future generations.
In addition to Anjali Sharma, there were – Isolde Shanti Raj-Seppings, Ambrose Malachy Hayes, Tomas Webster Arbizu, Bella Paige Burgemeister, Laura Fleck Kirwan, Ava Princi and Luca Gwyther Saunders – all Australian children part of the applicant group. As a consequence of their youth, the proceeding was brought by their litigation representative Sister Marie Brigid Arthur, a Sister of the Brigidine Order of Victoria.
This group of teenagers from around Australia was seeking a declaration that the minister had a duty of care to them and not to cause them harm by hurting the environment. They were also seeking an injunction against an extension to the Vickery coal mine in regional NSW, by the minister.
The 16-year old lead complainant Anjali Sharma had warned the project would burn roughly 370 billion tonnes of carbon emissions over its lifetime if it went ahead.
“She really needs to understand that she’s the one who’s making decisions that we are going to live with, that we are going to have to raise the next generation under,” Anjali was quoted as saying by the Herald Sun.
Anjali and others had no doubt that the minister owed them and future generations a duty of care. And to their utmost delight, the Federal Court agreed.
“Having weighed and balanced those considerations, the Court is satisfied that a duty of care should be recognised.
“Accordingly, the Court has determined the Minister has a duty to take reasonable care not to cause the Children personal injury when exercising her power under s 130 and s 133 of the EPBC Act to approve or not approve the Extension Project”, Justice M. Bromberg of the Federal Court said.
Addressing their prayer for injunction the judge said: “I have not been satisfied that a reasonable apprehension of breach of the duty of care by the Minister has been established. Nor have the applicants satisfied the Court that the extent of the restraint they seek is justified.”
Welcoming the decision of the court to dismiss the injunction application, Whitehaven Coal, owners of Vickery Coal mine, said:
“Whitehaven Coal welcomes today’s judgment in the Federal Court dismissing proceedings seeking to prevent the Federal Environment Minister granting an approval for the company’s Vickery Extension Project under the Environmental Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act (1999).
“Our consistent position has been that this legal claim was without merit.”
Whitehaven insists there is a continuing role for high quality coal in contributing to global CO2 emissions reduction efforts while simultaneously supporting economic development in our near region. The company says there is strong market demand for the high quality product of the type Vickery will produce.
BT understands both sides are in talks over the draft form of final orders including costs orders to be submitted to the judge’s chambers by June 3.
The group (of teenagers) was approached after the 2019 School Strike 4 Climate marches by lawyers who had been working on case theory “for a very long time”, Anjali had told Herald Sun.