NuCoal has issued a statement to the stock exchange foreshadowing legal action against Ian Macdonald and others. Photo: Jon Reid
Mining company NuCoal is preparing to sue disgraced former Labor minister Ian Macdonald and the NSW government for tens of millions of dollars in damages following an inquiry by the Independent Commission Against Corruption into its controversial Doyles Creek exploration licence.
The company is also threatening legal action against NSW Resources Minister Chris Hartcher if he does not make a decision on the future of the Hunter Valley tenement by the end of January.
The Doyles Creek exploration licence was issued by Mr Macdonald in 2008. But the decision was referred to the ICAC by Parliament in 2011 as it had been granted without tender to Doyles Creek Mining, then chaired by former union official John Maitland.
NuCoal acquired Doyles Creek Mining for $94 million in February 2010, and Mr Maitland, who is not a director but remains a shareholder, made millions of dollars from the deal.
In August, the ICAC found Mr Macdonald and Mr Maitland guilty of corrupt conduct in relation to the issuing of the licence.
On Thursday, NuCoal chairman Gordon Galt issued a statement to the stock exchange foreshadowing the potential legal action to ''protect'' shareholder interests.
He noted that the commission had said it would issue advice to the NSW government on what to do with the Doyles Creek licence by the end of this year. This meant ICAC ''will have taken 25 months to reach a conclusion'', which was ''an extraordinary amount of time''.
He said the government had not given a timetable for its decision, which meant ''there may be another indeterminate wait until the uncertainty created by the ICAC investigations is concluded''.
NuCoal would take ''whatever realistic steps it can to protect the company's legal position''.
Mr Galt said the ICAC had asked the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice as to whether Mr Macdonald could be charged with the crime of ''misconduct in public office''. This was similar to the civil tort of ''misfeasance in public office'', which if proven could be the basis for a compensation claim against Mr Macdonald and the state government, he said.
''The NuCoal board has therefore instructed its lawyers to commence preparation of the necessary documents required to initiate proceedings based on civil [misconduct in public office],'' he said.
NuCoal has applied to Mr Hartcher to renew its Doyles Creek exploration licence and the granting of ''assessment leases'' - the next step towards a full mining licence.
Mr Galt said NuCoal had written to Mr Hartcher threatening to seek an order from the Land and Environment Court if he had not made a decision on the future of Doyles Creek by January 31. The order would seek to force Mr Hartcher to make a decision.
Relations between NuCoal and the state government have soured in recent months.
Before the release of the ICAC findings, Mr Galt conducted media interviews declaring it would be ''unfair'' if the government cancelled the Doyles Creek licence.
On the morning before the findings were reported, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell rebuked NuCoal, saying it should take no comfort from his earlier statement it was an ''innocent party''.