Whitehaven Coal says it is on track to start transporting coal out of its new Maules Creek mine in less than six months.
The northern NSW mining project has been a flashpoint for anti-coal protesters but they have been unable to stop Whitehaven clearing forest land in multiple legal challenges.
The project was 68 per cent complete, ahead of schedule and due to rail first coal in the March 2015 quarter, Whitehaven said on Wednesday.
Its initial production rate will be six million tonnes a year of semi-soft coking and thermal coal before ramping up to 13 million tonnes.
Whitehaven beat expectations with record saleable coal production of 3.3 million tonnes for the September quarter, up 40 per cent, it said at its latest production report.
Its equity share of 2.6 million tonnes beat RBC Capital Markets prediction of 2.5 million tonnes.
Total sales of 2.4 million tonnes were less than RBC’s estimate of 2.5 million.
Whitehaven achieved an average price of $US89 tonne from sales of its metallurgical products and expects that price will be steady in the current, December, quarter.
It said it believed that thermal coal prices would gradually improve, with the current low prices forcing some struggling rival producers out of the market.
It was not greatly affected by China recently imposing tariffs on coal imports, saying it was not a significant market.
The benchmark Newcastle thermal coal price averaged $US68 a tonne during the quarter.