He said the first leg of the change was already completed following the development of Narrabri, one of the most efficient and low cost underground mines in Australia.
“The next step is about to commence with the construction of the Maules Creek mine,” Vaile said.
“These are both significant value accretive assets for the company and I expect investors will increasingly recognise the value proposition that Whitehaven represents as we move through the next significant growth phase.”
The Narrabri underground mine was successfully commissioned during the year with the longwall commencing commercial production in October 2012.
“The longwall has performed extremely well and the first panel was completed in June 2013,” Vaile said.
“Our local team completed the changeover of the longwall from the first panel to the second panel on time and on budget, a remarkable achievement in a new underground operation.
“We are extremely proud of the fact that almost the entire workforce at the Narrabri mine was recruited from the local region.
“This has largely limited the requirement for fly-in, fly-out workers and underpins Whitehaven’s long-standing commitment to employing local people at all of its mining operations.”
The most important milestone for the company during the year was gaining federal government approval for the Maules Creek project early in the year, Vaile said.
It means Maules Creek has both New South Wales and federal government approval.
“Not only will we double our production but with a 6:1 strip ratio and anticipated cost base of $67 free-on-board per tonne, it will significantly improve Whitehaven’s overall cost base and competitiveness,” he said.
Vaile also said Whitehaven’s Werris Creek mine had almost completed an expansion that would lift production to 2.5Mtpa, effectively replacing the production lost when the Sunnyside mine was placed into care and maintenance in late 2012.