Whitehaven Coal has opened the $767m Maules Creek mine near Gunnedah in New South Wales, Australia.
Started operating commercially from 1 July, the mine is currently producing 6.0Mtpa of ROM coal and is expected to have enough equipment to produce 8.5Mtpa of ROM coal by end of this year.
According to Whitehaven, the project was constructed three months ahead of schedule and first coal was loaded onto a train only 359 days after the construction began.
The final cost of the project is likely to be at least $27m lower compared wirth the original estimate.
Whitehaven Coal CEO Paul Flynn said: "Today marks an important milestone in Whitehaven Coal’s growth and transition as a company and is a testament to the performance of our people who have worked tirelessly to deliver this project ahead of time, and under budget.
"Over the past three years alone, Whitehaven has spent nearly half a billion dollars locally and it’s the local community that will continue to reap the benefit of projects such as Maules Creek for decades to come."
Maules Creek has created 250 locally based jobs, and is expected to create another 200 jobs for locals once production is at full capacity.
The project will also contribute an additional $68m in wages to the regional economy and more than $90m a year in royalty payments to the New South Wales state government.
During the construction period, approximately 22,000 individual items of equipment, piping and steel components were delivered to site in addition to building 10km of construction access roads, 12km of sealed mine access roads.
The company has built an 18km-long water distribution network and installed more than 30km of rail to transport the company’s production trains.
Image: Around 22,000 items of equipment, piping and steel components were delivered during construction. Photo: courtesy of Whitehaven Coal Limited.