Australia-based Whitehaven Coal has commenced open cut mining operations at its $767m Maules Creek project in the Gunnedah Basin of Australia.
The full-scale mining has started using Whitehaven's new mining fleet after carrying out two blasts last week.
Whitehaven said it will ensure that 75% of its employees at the mine will be local residents when operating at full capacity. The project is expected to employ approximately 450 workers
Whitehaven managing director and CEO Paul Flynn said: "This is an important milestone for Maules Creek and Whitehaven.
"We have been focused on delivering the Maules Creek project for all our stakeholders, including the local community, for a considerable period of time.
"With the commencement of the box-cut, the transition from construction to operations is well underway, accelerating the benefits that accrue to the local region."
Whitehaven Coal said the project is on-budget and on-schedule, and the first coal is expected to be shipped in March 2015.
Claimed to be Australia's largest coal mine, the project is considered to be one the few remaining Tier 1 undeveloped coal assets in the region.
Whitehaven Coal has been facing protests from local community groups concerned over the potential environmental impact of the Maules Creek project.
Earlier this week, Sydney University was condemned by environmentalists for investing $900,000 in Whitehaven Coal.
Image: The full scale mining has started using Whitehaven's new mining fleet. Photo: courtesy of Whitehaven Coal.