The federal government has deferred its decision on Whitehaven Coal’s controversial Maules Creek mine in the New South Wales Gunnedah Basin until April.
The proposed Maules Creek open cut mine is a key growth project for Whitehaven and was approved by the NSW state government last August.
State government approval took two years and the project still awaits federal approval.
A decision on expansion of the company’s adjacent Boggabri mine was also deferred, the SMH reported.
The proximity of the two projects has prompted the federal Environment Department “to look at their cumulative impacts as a whole'', it said in a statement.
In response to the announcement NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher accused the federal government of playing political games, saying ''this announcement is all about kicking off Tony Windsor's re-election campaign and shoring up his support in New England.''
Whitehaven managing director Tony Haggarty said the company was disappointed at the delay and was ''not aware of any substantive issues with the environmental evaluations".
This year has already seen Whitehaven weather a rocky start being the target of a share market hoax, a profit downgrade, and imminent strike action.
Last month activist Jonathan Moylan issued a fake press release from ANZ purporting to withdraw finance for the Mauls Creek project. The hoax temporarily wiped $314 million off Whitehaven.
Strike action is scheduled for Friday by members of the Rail Bus and Train Union.