An Indigenous elder who successfully took on the mining entrepreneur “Diamond” Joe Gutnick in the Queensland land court has wound up with a $70,000 legal debt he cannot repay.
In a case that could have a chilling effect on future challenges to mines by traditional owners and others, the Kalkadoon elder James Taylor was denied legal costs despite winning a three-year battle for changes to Gutnick’s phosphate project near Mount Isa.
The case turned on the same legal precedent that thwarted an attempt by the mining giant Adani to make conservationists pay an estimated $1m in what was widely considered a landmark costs ruling in favour of mining objectors.
Both rulings were handed down last Wednesday by the land court president, Carmel MacDonald, who found the court did not have the power to award costs to either side in challenges to mining permits.
That was in line with a supreme court ruling last year which Queensland’s Palaszczuk government then legislated to overcome but cabinet is yet to activate.
Taylor’s lawyer, Colin Hardie, said his case showed how a law that protected some mining objectors hurt others who could least afford it.
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