26 Oct 2012

Huge new open-cast coalmine approved in Australia

8:45 pm on 26 October 2012

Just as New Zealand's state-owned miner Solid Energy lays off hundreds of workers and mothballs its Spring Creek coalmine, Australia has approved the excavation of one of the biggest open-cut coalmines in the world.

Whitehaven's Maules Creek project, near the Leard state forest in north-west New South Wales, will extract 12 million tonnes of raw coal a year, the ABC reports.

Whitehaven expects production to start mid-2013, with operations predicted to last about 30 years.

Managing director Tony Haggarty says stringent environmental conditions have been applied by the commission and the mine will be good for the region economically and good for the state.

"It's one of the best coal developments in the world," he says. "It's a large reserve, it's very good quality. It's the sort of coal that is in demand in the marketplace, and because the reserve is large and because it has a long life there will be a significant area of land involved."

But environmentalist Phil Spark says the Planning Assessment Commission's approval is a blow to the endangered trees and animals that live in the forest.

"My biggest concern is that the environment has been totally undervalued," he says. "You just can't destroy a forest and think it's going to be compensated. It's an endangered ecological community and it just can't be replaced."