Whitehaven acquired Itochu Corporation’s minority interest in the project last month.
The Vickery project involves the development of an open cut coal mine producing up to 4.5 million tonnes per annum of run of mine coal for up to 30 years.
Mining at Vickery will be a recommencement of former operations, with development consent for mining originally granted in October 1986.
The Vickery South deposit is not included in the current Vickery approvals process.
Any inclusion of Vickery South into the Vickery development would be subject to the relevant approval processes at the time, outgoing Whitehaven managing director Tony Haggarty said.
“There are compelling operational and economic benefits from combining these two assets,” he said.
The Vickery project preliminary environmental assessment was lodged with the NSW Department of Planning in October 2011 and the environmental impact statement was placed on public display on March 5, 2013.
The Vickery South project comprises 52Mt of JORC-compliant resource which, when combined with the Vickery project, provides an overall JORC-compliant resource of 537Mt (148Mt measured, 183.5Mt indicated, 205Mt inferred) for the Vickery precinct.
The transaction with Itochu involved Whitehaven acquiring Itochu’s entire interest in the Vickery South project, including its 29% joint venture interest and its right to increase to a 49% interest through farm-in arrangementsm, which are nearing completion.
It also involves the termination of Itochu’s exclusive offtake and sales agency arrangements relating to the project.
The consideration for the transaction is the issue of 11.47 million shares in Whitehaven to Itochu.
“While our immediate focus has been on the development of our world-class Maules Creek project, the Vickery project forms an attractive element of the company’s longer term growth profile,” Haggarty said.
Maules Creek received NSW government project approval on October 23 and federal approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act on February 11.
There are a number of secondary NSW and federal approvals required prior to commencing construction.
Plans in support of the approvals are progressing through the relevant government departments, according to Whitehaven.
The EPBC approval is also conditional on the provision, within specific timeframes, of further information and detailed plans to the environment minister.
Whitehaven said work was well advanced on the requirements and it expected to be able to satisfy the conditions.
Following approval of the water management plan, there is a three-month mobilisation period and a 13-month construction period for rail access.
Based on this schedule, it is expected that first coal sales from Maules Creek would be in the second half of calendar 2014, according to Whitehaven.