Maules Creek mine has delivered its first load of coal to the port of Newcastle as the project works to ramp up to full production.
The company said the railing of first coal left the mine site three months ahead of schedule and less than a year from when construction started.
“The railing of the first coal from Maules Creek is a significant achievement for Whitehaven Coal,” CEO Paul Flynn said.
Flynn expects the mine, located 18km north-east of Boggabri, to be declared fully commercial from the 1st of July this year.
Major construction components which remain in progress at the site include the erection of the coal handling preparation plant (CHPP), provision of permanent power, product coal stockyards and workshops.
The CHPP is due to be completed before the end of May 2015 and will be the last major infrastructure component at the site.
In the first full year of operations the mine is expected to produce approximately 6.0Mt of ROM coal before expanding production to 8.5Mtpa ROM.
Flynn said the mine was having a positive impact on local towns and the state.
“During construction, the project has provided employment for up to 600 full time equivalents and contractors. Once fully operational, the mine will employ around 450 full time workers. Most of these workers will be hired from the local Gunnedah / Narrabri region ensuring the mine has a significant positive impact on local families and towns for many years to come,” Flynn said.
Despite the cash and jobs injection, the project has been highly contentious with environmental groups, and some are going to great lengths in attempts to hamstring the mine’s development.
Activists say the mine will destroy large parts of the Leard State Forest and affect water and air quality in the farming region.