Whitehaven Coal has reached a milestone in the proposed development of the Winchester South metallurgical coal site, with the Queensland Government declaring it a coordinated project.
The coordinated status does not mean the project has received approval from the government, but it does mean that it can advance to the next stage of the development process, including the creation of a comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS).
Whitehaven Coal purchased Rio Tinto’s 75 per cent controlling interest in the project in June 2018 for $US200 million (roughly $260 million according to the exchange rate at the time).
If approved, the open cut project is estimated to produce an average of eight million tonnes of product coal a year over a roughly 30-year mine life, with first coal proposed for extraction in 2023.
The scope of the project includes a coal handling and preparation plant (CHPP), rail loop and train load out facility, accommodation camp, electricity transmission line and water pipeline.
Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Ian Macfarlane welcomed the news but referred to the Queensland and Australian Government’s treatment of Adani’s long-gestating Carmichael coal project in cautionary terms, stating that it had “cast doubt on all projects”.
“This is not a political process. It is an approval process,” he said. “The QRC expects this process to remain free of politics, and that all projects get a ‘fair go’.”
The $1 billion project is also expected to create around 950 jobs in total, split between 500 jobs over a two-year construction period and 450 full-time operational jobs, according to Minister for State Development Cameron Dick.
“Since January 2015, almost 185,000 jobs have been created in Queensland, and our government will keep working to push that number higher,” he said.