Travers Duncan arriving at an ICAC hearing. His attempts to block the inquiry have failed. Photo: Nic WalkerFor the second time, mining magnate Travers Duncan has failed in his attempt to prevent the Independent Commission Against Corruption from handing down its final report into Operation Jasper.

Mr Duncan, 80, one of the richest men in the country, is part of a consortium of businessmen who have an interest in Cascade Coal, which won the tender for the Mount Penny coal exploration licence in 2009 under controversial circumstances.

The licence covered several properties owned by the family and associates of Eddie Obeid in the Bylong Valley. The circumstances of the granting of this and other exploration licences by then mining minister Ian Macdonald has been the subject of a long-running corruption inquiry.

Two months ago, Supreme Court judge Cliff Hoeben ruled that ICAC commissioner David Ipp had not shown “apprehended bias”, as alleged by Mr Duncan, when he wrote to Premier Barry O’Farrell earlier in the year in relation to a development application by Mr Duncan’s company to start mining for coal at Mount Penny.

In his letter to the Premier, the commissioner advised that in the event the planning department had to make a decision on Cascade Coal’s application for a mining licence, the department should apply public interest criteria when considering the application.

The letter was written during ICAC’s investigation into whether former Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald had acted corruptly in the granting of coal exploration licences.

The inquiry heard that the Obeid family, which had purchased farming land at Mount Penny, obtained a 25 per cent stake in Cascade Coal in return for access to their land to enable a coal mine to go ahead.

Mr Duncan told ICAC in December last year that in 2010 he was furious when he discovered the Obeids owned a quarter of his mining company and he demanded they be removed.

“It was a name I didn’t like,” he said. “Their reputation, as far as I was concerned, was not good enough to be a partner with.”

The inquiry has heard that the Obeids were offered $60 million to exit Cascade, of which they have received half.

Mr Duncan said that Mr Obeid’s son Moses and the Obeids’ lawyer had come to see him in early 2012 to demand payment of their second $30 million. “They argued, whinged, pleaded and I refused,” he said.

The inquiry heard that the failure to pay the second tranche means that the Obeids currently have a stake in Cascade Coal.

While in the witness box at ICAC, Mr Duncan, who is worth half a billion dollars, denied the suggestion that he was “a dishonest man who was prepared to apply that dishonesty to regulatory authorities” to conceal the Obeid family’s involvement in Cascade Coal.

Mr Duncan denied that he had misled the stock exchange because if the NSW government had discovered the Obeids had an involvement in Cascade, “the chances of the mining lease being granted would have been negligible”.

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Duncan’s appeal against the earlier Supreme Court decision and ordered the coal baron to pay ICAC’s costs.

Chief Justice Tom Bathurst held that when commissioner Ipp wrote to Premier O’Farrell, “The commissioner made it clear in writing the letter that his advice was not dependent on his having made findings … It was appropriate, in my opinion, for the commissioner to express the view that the public interest considerations could be taken into account in determining the fate of the development application and that if the planning minister was of the view that the licence was tainted by corrupt conduct, that was a matter to be taken into account in determining whether of not to grant the development application.”

At the end of July, Mr Ipp will hand down his findings at to whether there was corrupt conduct in the former Labor government’s issuing of coal exploration licences for Mount Penny and other tenements.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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