Construction will start at Whitehaven’s Maules Creek mine next week

Whitehaven Coal have received final approval to develop its $766 million Maules Creek mine.

The company announced the final approvals needed to begin construction had been granted by the Federal Government and said preparation of the mine site would begin next week.

The project gained approval in February subject to strict environmental conditions.

Whitehaven’s managing director Paul Flynn said the mine represented a key investment in the region.

"The project is one of the most significant investments currently underway in regional NSW," he said in a statement.

"It expects to employ 340 full time equivalent employees and contractors in the construction phase and approximately 470 during ongoing operations."

The Maules Creek open cut mine is a key growth project for Whitehaven and is predicted to double the company’s annual production, making Whitehaven the largest coalminer in the Gunnedah Basin.

The project will produce about 60 per cent semi-soft coking coal, and 40 per cent high-quality thermal coal.

Once at full production, Maules Creek will produce 13 million tonnes annually, of which 10.5 million tonnes will be saleable coal.

The Maules Creek project has received support from the Narrabri Shire Council, with mayor Conrad Bolton describing it as a big win for the regional economy.

However the mine has also seen fierce protest from some members of the local community.

Long term resident and farmer Phil Laird said the mine would impact on the natural environment.

‘‘We don’t want this area to become the next Hunter Valley,’’ Leard said.

‘‘Between them, Maules Creek and Boggabri mines will account for more than 4000hectares of the 7500-hectare Leard State Forest, leaving massive final voids that the scientific experts said should be filled in.

‘‘Environmentally, the mines will devastate various native species including koalas and swift parrots, and as farmers, we are concerned about the damage the mines will do to the surrounding aquifers.’’

While earlier this year, activist Jonathan Moylan temporarily wiped $314 million off Whitehaven’s market value when he issued a fake press release stating ANZ had withdrawn a $1.2 billion loan to fund the project.

Moylan has since been charged over the hoax and told Australian Mining that he is willing to go to jail for his cause saying the miner shouldn’t be allowed to destroy the forest.

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