Construction work at the much-maligned coal mine was held up by a number of legal challenges of Government approvals since getting underway late in 2013, but Whitehaven succeeded in delivering the project ahead of schedule and sent a test train earlier this week to announce the start of production at the mine which is expected to produce about 2.5Mt of coal in the period up to 30 June 2015.
“The railing of the first coal from Maules Creek is a significant achievement for Whitehaven Coal. Railing first coal less than a year from when construction started is a fantastic outcome and I congratulate all those involved in this very successful project,” said Paul Flynn, Whitehaven Coal Managing Director and CEO.
“Maules Creek is already having a substantial positive economic impact on local towns, the region more broadly and the state as a whole. During construction, the project has provided employment for up to 600 full time equivalents and contractors. Once fully operational, the mine will employ around 450 full time workers. Most of these workers will be hired from the local Gunnedah / Narrabri region ensuring the mine has a significant positive impact on local families and towns for many years to come. In addition, residents of New South Wales will benefit significantly from the royalties paid that will be used by the State Government to provide important essential services throughout NSW.”
The company also stated that major construction components which remain in progress, such as the provision of permanent power, product coal stockyards and workshops, will be completed early in 2015, before the erection of the coal handling preparation plant (CHPP), which is due to be completed before the end of May 2015.
Whitehaven, which believes the project will come in below the original budget estimate of $767 million, has also reviewed its earlier operating assumptions and mine plans and now expects operating costs for FY2016 to be around A$62/t (excluding royalties) while costs for the first five years of mine life are expected to be in the range of A$63/t to A$64/t as the metallurgical coal proportion increases.