WHITEHAVEN Coal has confirmed the NSW government has approved an expansion of its Tarrawonga coalmine, the last of three controversial projects in the Gunnedah Basin that threaten the Leard State Forest.
Whitehaven and Japanese partner Idemitsu, which owns 30 per cent of the mine, have gained state approval to lift production at Tarrawonga from 2 million to 3 million tonnes of coal a year and extend the project life to 2030.
The Tarrawonga expansion project now awaits approval from the federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, who is also set to announce a decision on Whitehaven's Maules Creek project and Idemitsu's Boggabri expansion, both nearby.
The three projects will require most of the Leard State Forest to be cleared. In a dramatic protest earlier this month Front Line Action on Coal activist Jonathan Moylan grabbed national attention when he issued a fake ANZ press release purporting to withdraw a loan to Whitehaven.
The hoax sparked a run on Whitehaven shares, which fell 9 per cent within minutes but recovered after a trading halt put an end to the misinformation.
Whitehaven's managing director, Tony Haggarty, welcomed the decision. Whitehaven shares closed on Friday unchanged at $3.50.