Whitehaven Coal is getting ready to hire the 450 workers it will need to run the controversial Maules Creek coal mine.
Despite a decision to stop clearing the Leard State Forest in winter, Whitehaven Coal said its $767 million project is nearly halfway complete, and on track to produce first coal in March 2015.
Whitehaven CEO Paul Flynn said the company agreed to halt its clearing activity amid concerns raised by members of the community, but said the move would not delay the construction of the mine.
“We were ahead of our schedule anyway in terms of where we needed to be to maintain continuity of the construction effort,” Flynn told the NBN News.
With the loading of first coal just months away, Flynn said as well as a ramp up in construction, which is continuing on site, the recruitment process for 450 permanent workers would be commencing shortly.
“We’re about to open the door on recruitment of a local workforce and that’s another really exciting development for the town and the whole region," Flynn said.
“We’re getting very excited about the prospect of this mine, not just up and running, but all the employment that comes with it.”
Whitehaven has previously stated that almost 85 per cent of the mine’s workers will be from the Gunnedah, Tamworth, Narrabri, and Liverpool Plains areas.
As well as employment opportunities, Flynn said the mine would see flow-on benefits to businesses in the local area.
Once at full production, Maules Creek will produce 13 million tonnes annually, of which 10.5 million tonnes will be saleable coal, and is estimated to pay $6.5 billion in royalties and corporate tax over the first 21 years of its life.
However despite this 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.
“Protests are a nuisance – mostly for Police – but they will not deter Whitehaven Coal from getting on with building Maules Creek and delivering on the substantial economic benefits it will bring to the region,” the company has said.
“Protestors should respect the fact that this is an approved project that has passed the highest contemporary environmental approvals standards.”