THE Federal Court has dismissed a legal challenge by the Northern Inland Council for the Environment (NICE) to stop construction work at the Maules Creek coal project.
Despite Whitehaven Coal having the necessary approvals to proceed with the project, NICE challenged the validity of the approval process led by former Environment minister Tony Burke.
Whitehaven managing director and chief executive Paul Flynn said he was pleased to successfully defend the injunction.
“This is obviously a positive result for the company,” he said. “The Maules Creek project has been through one of the most rigorous planning approval processes, at both state and federal levels, ever undertaken by a mine in NSW.
“Coal production remains on target for the first quarter of 2015.” Nature Conservation Council Campaigns director Kate Moleskin said the approval of two mines in the area was expected to destroy almost 3500 hectares of woodland in an environmentally sensitive area.
“These mines should never have been approved by the Federal Government,” she said.
“They will have unacceptable impacts on endangered species, water resources and the surrounding community.” With an anticipated 30 year mine life, Maules Creek was expected to employ more than 340 full time equivalent workers during operation and 470 during construction.
When completed, the mine would inject nearly $3 billion into the local economy each year.
Whitehaven would also contribute $13 million towards local funding for roads and infrastructure upgrades. As operator of the mine, Whitehaven has a 75 per cent stake in the project. Japanese companies Itochu Corporation and J-Power hold the remainder.
Maules Creek is considered one of the last tier one undeveloped coal assets in Australia and has more than 320 million tonnes of marketable reserves.