Whitehaven Coal is making no money due to poor coal prices but, for the second time in four weeks, has won approval to expand or build a new mine.
Whitehaven, in which former billionaire Nathan Tinkler holds a big stake, plans to raise production at its Tarrawonga mine in the Gunnedah basin from 2 million tonnes of coal a year to 3 million tonnes.
The federal government's conditional approval came on an otherwise bad day for coalminers.
The company's shares tanked by 14¢, or 5.5 per cent, to $2.39 on Tuesday after the federal government announced tougher new coal mine laws to protect water quality.
Last month, Environment Minister Tony Burke gave conditional approval for Whitehaven's Maules Creek mine and the neighbouring Boggabri mine expansion.
Whitehaven chairman Mark Vaile expects the "super-competitive" Maules Creek mine to be working next year, more than doubling production to 25 million tonnes a year. The company expects to sell 9 million tonnes this year.
Whitehaven has a 70 per cent stake in Tarrawonga, with the remainder owned by Japanese company Idemitsu, which controls the Boggabri mine.