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BHP Billiton intends to build a new thermal coal mine near Gunnedah in the fertile Liverpool Plains region of northern New South Wales (NSW).

Caroona is expected to export 10 million tonnes of thermal coal a year and is considered as the nation’s largest underground coal mine.

BHP Billiton has also submitted papers to the Federal Environment Department for its underground mine.

The company noted that the mine would operate for 30 years and employ up to 400 people, with about 600 positions to be filled during peak construction periods.

"The preliminary environmental studies…indicate that it will not impact the alluvial irrigation aquifers that are essential for agricultural production in the region."

Mine construction is anticipated to commence in 2018 if approved, with production slated for 2021.

BHP’s NSW thermal coal asset president Peter Sharpe told the website that the preliminary environmental studies undertaken for the Gateway submission of the mine indicate that it will not impact the alluvial irrigation aquifers that are essential for agricultural production in the region.

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Separately, the world’s largest diversified resources company is facing significant opposition from the local community, as the new mine would impact the region’s water supplies.

BHP is conducting exploration activities at Caroona in the Gunnedah basin in north-western NSW, to potentially develop the thermal coal mine and is working in consultation with the community to address concerns pertaining to the impacts of any proposed coal mine.

According to the company, the Caroona coal project is part of NSW Energy Coal, which also manages Mt Arthur Coal in the NSW Upper Hunter region and its 35% shareholding in the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group.