A Kalkadoon elder who has won a three-year battle against mining entrepreneur “Diamond” Joe Gutnick has ended up with a $70,000 legal debt he is unable to pay.

James Taylor was denied legal costs despite winning the case over changes to a phosphate project near Mount Isa.

Land court president Carmel MacDonald found the court did not have the power to award costs to either side in challenges to mining permits.

Mr Taylor’s lawyer, Colin Hardie, says future mining objectors who need expert reports to win their case will struggle to find law firms willing to pay the costs.

CEO of the Environmental Defenders Office QLD Jo Anne Bragg says allowing judges to award costs in these cases could prove even worse for mining objectors.