Ian Macdonald to be grilled over Alan Jones letter

THE bureaucrat in charge of granting mining leases has faced questions about why he approved a letter to broadcaster Alan Jones in 2009 that described Doyles Creek mine in the Hunter as ''a small to medium sized underground training mine'' that had ''wide industry support''.

Lawyers for the former primary industries minister Ian Macdonald are expected to dispute that he was given strong warnings from the department against the direct allocation of the licence.

The Independent Commission against Corruption is investigating whether Mr Macdonald, as the minister responsible for allocating mining leases, acted improperly by not going to tender to allocate the exploration licence for Doyles Creek.

The letter was sent by Mr Macdonald to Jones in 2009, in response to a letter the broadcaster sent querying the mine. Jones has strong connections with the thoroughbred industry in the Hunter.

The bureaucrat, Brad Mullard, had earlier told the commission that he and others had opposed the direct allocation of the Doyles Creek mine in 2008 because it was a large deposit that warranted being put to competitive tender. They also regarded the training mine concept as a ''smokescreen'' to hide the fact that a direct allocation would confer a $100 million benefit on the investors, which included former mining union boss John Maitland.

Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald.