fter months of protests, Whitehaven has officially begun open-cut mining at its flagship Maules Creek site in northern NSW.
“Two blasts last week preceded today’s start of full-scale mining using Whitehaven’s new mining fleet being operated by Whitehaven employees,” the company said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange on Wednesday.
“The Maules Creek project remains on budget and schedule with first saleable coal expected to be railed from Maules Creek in March 2015.”
The mine is set to become one of the largest in the country.
Picket lines have become a regular fixture at the mine site near Boggabri since 2012.
Religious leaders, doctors and a 92-year-old digger are among the protesters arrested over the past year at the Leard State Forest site.
But the highest-profile protester was Jonathan Moylan, who temporarily wiped $300 million off Whitehaven’s value with a hoax media release.
The bogus missive on ANZ letterhead claimed the bank had withdrawn a $1.2 billion loan from Whitehaven because of concerns about environmental damage and dislocation of farmers.
Moylan, 26, was released on a two-year good behaviour bond last month after a NSW Supreme Court judge determined he was unlikely to attempt a similar stunt again.