The Federal Court of Australia has granted approval for Whitehaven Coal to go ahead with its $767m Maules Creek coal project in New South Wales.
The Federal Minister for the Environment granted final approval for Whitehaven to start construction of the project in July 2013. This had been challenged by the Northern Inland Council for the Environment, under the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act), but the court ruled that the approval was valid.
The company is now able to start operations at the project, which is located in Gunnedah Basin in the north-west part of New South Wales.
In reaction to the court's approval, Whitehaven managing director and CEO Paul Flynn said that when the mine is operating, the project will generate more than 340 direct construction jobs and a further 470 permanent positions.
"Our company has worked incredibly hard with the local community, our investors and others to bring this project to fruition and we are absolutely determined to maintain momentum and achieve first coal sales in the first quarter of CY2015," Flynn said.
Maules Creek has an estimated 320 million tonnes of semi-soft coking coal and thermal coal and is considered to be one of the few remaining undeveloped tier one coal assets in Australia.
Whitehaven chairman Hon Mark Vaile said: "The resolution of this outstanding legal challenge, our successful recent debt realignment and gradually improving global coal prices should give Whitehaven investors real certainty and confidence about the company's future."
Production at the Maules Creek project is expected to begin by the second half of 2014.
Image: Production at the Maules Creek project is expected to begin by the second half of 2014. Photo: courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.