The decision paves the way for Whitehaven officials to begin construction of the 13-million-ton-per-year (tpy) Maules Creek mine, due to commence selling metallurgical and thermal coal in Q1 2015; CEO Paul Flynn said Whitehaven is “absolutely determined” to keep that timeframe.
Chairman Mark Vaile said the ruling, coupled with company debt realignments and gradually improving coal prices, “should give Whitehaven investors real certainty and confidence about the future,” according to Reuters.
The company secured environmental approval from the then-labor government to build Maules Creek in Q2 after first applying for permits in 2010. But approval was then stalled by the Northern Inland Council for the Environment with assertions the operation would breach federal environmental regulations. In particular, the group claimed threatened species would be endangered under the auspices of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Canberra’s new conservative coalition government, however, introduced amendments to environment law last month to ensure miners like Whitehaven would not face uncertainties of having government approvals overturned.
Whitehaven officials said Maules Creek had already been subjected to exacting inspections from regulators while adhering to extremely high environmental standards. Flynn, meanwhile, said Maules Creek would generate more than 340 direct construction jobs and a workforce of 470 permanent employees once mining gets under way; the project is 15% owned by Itochu Corp., a Japanese trading house and 10% owned by Japan’s Electric Power Development Co.