BHP Billiton said it hopes to extract first coal from its Caroona project in 2021 as the company provided an update of its development plans at a community breakfast in Gunnedah.
The miner kicked off the approvals process for the massive new coal project in April, and said it expects to receive its Gateway Certificate in three to four weeks.
This will allow the company to develop an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for what could be one of Australia’s biggest coal mines.
Caroona is expected to export 10 million tonnes of thermal coal a year for 30 years.
The mine is expected to employ 600 people at its peak and 400 over the life of mine.
BHP’s coal boss, Dean Dalla Valle has labelled the Caroona project as a key focus for the company’s NSW operations.
However its location 40 kilometres south-east of Gunnedah in the highly fertile Liverpool Plains has raised concerns around how the project will impact on water and farming in the region.
Protest against any new mine in the area is expected to be fierce as the community also rallies to stop the construction of Shenhua Group’s Watermark coal project.
Caroona Coal project manager Mick Lovely told locals at the breakfast, hosted by the Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce, that the company expected to have the EIS completed by late 2014, or early 2015, Namoi Valley Independent reported.
“There are still some landholders that are very anxious about us being there and the potential risk to property, subsidence, dust and surface and underground water,” Lovley said.
He said details of the project would become more clear once the EIS was complete.
“We are very aware we need to get it right.”
Lovely said modelling showed the mine would not have any major impacts on the highly productive alluvial and Liverpool Plains aquifers.
BHP Billiton NSW Energy Coal Asset president Peter Sharpe has previously said the company will only mine at Caroona if it can satisfy strict environmental requirements.
Construction of the Caroona coal mine is scheduled for 2018.