Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has approved coal miner Whitehaven Coal’s A$700 million Vickery Extension project in New South Wales.

Ley’s approval follows the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission approving the project in August last year.

The project has been cleared to extract a maximum of 13-million-metric-ton-per-year (mtpy) run-of-mine coal, over a 25-year mine life, with Whitehaven allowed to transport 11.5 million mt of coal from the site by rail in any financial year.

The project is expected to employ some 500 staff during construction and 450 ongoing operational roles.

Whitehaven said the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act approval represented the culmination of an exhaustive process of technical evaluation and stakeholder consultation at both state and federal levels, which spanned some five years.

“Against the current backdrop of record high coal prices and strong demand in seaborne markets, the company sees a continuing role for high-quality coal of the type Vickery will produce to contribute to global carbon dioxide emission reduction and containment efforts while simultaneously supporting economic development in our near region,” Whitehaven said.

The company added that major employment-generating investments would be essential as the Australian economy continues to recover from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.