Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine was officially opened by NSW Premier Mike Baird yesterday.
So far the operation has produced 94,000 tonnes of coal, with Whitehaven hoping to ramp this up to 6 million tonnes by March.
Speaking at an event on site, Baird said the construction of Maules Creek mine was a great achievement by Whitehaven.
The project came online three months ahead of schedule and $25 million under budget, despite constant protests that aimed to halt its development.
"It has been a long road under some difficult circumstances but royalties from this mine will start going towards better health services, better education and better infrastructure,” Baird said.
Maules Creek mine currently employs around 151 people, but this is expected to surge to 450 when the mine reaches full production capacity.
Once fully operational, the mine is expected to inject around $126 million in wages a year into the Gunnedah region.
However, activists who have been fighting the mine’s development aren’t letting up, with six days-worth of protests organised later this month.
According to organisers, the “bat attack” rally will run for six days from February 13, and include “all of the best music, skillshares, workshops, arts, and action”.
They say plans by Whitehaven to clear more of the Leard State forest will cause harm to a number of bat species.
Commenting on protestors yesterday, Baird said he wanted to see people act responsibly.
Earlier in the day Baird was confronted by anti-mining activists when he landed at Tamworth airport.
The Caroona Coal Action group presented a letter to the Premier with a list of their concerns and asked him to listen to what the community wants.
“I do listen,” Baird responded.
Leard Forest Alliance spokesperson Murray Drechsler accused the premier of snubbing local community members who oppose the project while on his visit to the region.
Drechsler said Maules Creek mine continued to be a “beacon for the rising swell of opposition to coal the expansion of the coal industry in Australia.”
“Thousands have already come – and hundreds more have made the pledge to come and support locals as they protect this irreplaceable forest,” Drechsler said.
Image: The Courier