It is in spite of a recent hoax press release by environmentalists which drew international attention to the project.
The company said the economics of the project were sound and it had cooperated with regulatory authorities in seeking to gain approval for the 10.5 million tonne thermal coal mine.
“The New South Wales government has now approved the Maules Creek project, subject to appropriate conditions,” the company said.
“Whitehaven is now seeking approval from the federal government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and is continuing to work to ensure that development schedules remain on track, once all approvals are granted.”
Development contracts continue to be progressed and a formal decision to mine will be made when all approvals are to hand, according to the company.
“Project construction is ready to commence,” Whitehaven said.
Maules Creek is expected to ramp up to annual saleable production of 10.5Mt by 2016.
Following a detailed review of the Maules Creek capital budget, capital expenditure to first coal is expected to be approximately $766 million.
Of this amount, approximately $140 million had been spent at December 31, 2012, leaving approximately $626 million to spend.
Whitehaven said the detailed review of development and operating plans confirmed the expectation of average free-on-board cash operating costs of approximately $62.50 per tonne for Maules Creek (excluding royalties).
“This is a very competitive cost structure, largely driven by Maules Creek’s relatively low overburden stripping ratio of 6.4 bank cubic metres per tonne of run of mine coal,” it said.
“This relatively low FOB cash cost, combined with a relatively low development capital cost per annual tonne of capacity and the high value of the saleable coal, confirms the strong economics and substantial value of this project.
“Despite the current weakness in coal markets, Whitehaven intends to bring the mine into operation as soon as possible.”