The Northern Inland Council for the Environment has attempted to halt the project through going a series of legal appeals after a controversial protest by activist Jonathan Moylan, which included a fake media release stating that its funding had been withdrawn by the ANZ bank.
The group has questioned former environment minister Tony Burke’s approval process for Maules Creek.
Whitehaven managing director Paul Flynn said the rail loop was a key part of the mine infrastructure and the longest lead time item for the project.
“This is a very important milestone for Whitehaven’s Maules Creek project,” he said.
“Once the mine begins production in the first quarter of CY2015 it will strengthen the company’s position as a major low cost coal producer in Australia.”
The open cut project would see the company more than double in size and lower its overall cost of production, according to Whitehaven chairman Mark Vaile.
“Securing government approval for our Maules Creek project was a key milestone in the company’s development,” he said.
“One of the best things we can do to future proof our business in these difficult times is to bring onstream the lowest cost production we can.
“Maules Creek achieves this objective.”
Vaile said the legal challenge to the federal minister’s approval decision for Maules Creek did not prevent work starting on the project.
“We are working vigorously to have first coal by the first quarter of CY2015,” he said.
“Our Maules Creek team remains extremely focused on putting the appropriate planning in place to facilitate an on-time and on-budget construction process.”