Whitehaven Coal free to go-ahead with Maules Creek mine project

Whitehaven Coal’s controversial Maules Creek mine is set to go ahead after the Federal Court dismissed a challenge by environmental groups.

The company said it will ramp up construction of the $767 million project, located near Narrabri, after a court dismissed the challenge from the Northern Inland Council for the Environment (NICE).

NICE filed a challenge to appeal the proposed mine in July, challenging the validity of former federal environment minister Tony Burke’s decision to approve the project.

The group claim Burke approved the mine without viewing an adequate offset package.

NICE said it will review the court’s judgement and seek advice on possible grounds for an appeal.

The group's spokesman, Phil Spark, said the decision confirms "our Federal environment laws are broken, and that they cannot protect farmers or the environment from reckless coal mining."

"Despite this decision today, there is still a huge legal cloud hanging over the Whitehaven Maules Creek coal mine, which warrants a proper public investigation,” Sparks said.

"Independent scientists have revealed that the approval for the mine was based on false information, and the relationship between Whitehaven Coal and the National Party is under scrutiny after the company was fined recently for undeclared political donations."

Whitehaven Coal welcomed the decision stating the mine project has undergone rigorous scrutiny from regulatory agencies.

Managing director Paul Flynn said the company was getting on with the job of building the mine.

“We are absolutely determined to maintain momentum and achieve first coal sales in the first quarter of CY2015,” Flynn said.

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

The mine is expected to create over 800 jobs and will pay $6.5 billion in royalties and corporate tax over the first 21 years of the project.

The Federal Court decision also clears the way for the Boggabri coal mine to be expanded by Idemitsu Australia, another project that was being challenged by the Northern Inland Council for the Environment.

Protests at both sites are common, with environmental groups promising to do what they can to hamstring the development of coal mines in the area.

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