(EnergyAsia, February 14 2013, Thursday) — The Australian government has approved the proposals of two companies to develop the Maules Creek and Boggabri mine proposals in New South Wales state on the condition that they met conditions to protect wildlife and the environment.

Environment Minister Tony Burke gave the approval for Whitehaven Coal Limited’s 75%-owned Maules Creek project after the government had stated last week that it would only make a decision in April. The decision was brought forward after the government had released of “commercially sensitive” information about the project, whose other shareholders include Japan’s Itochu (15%) and Electric Power Development Co (10%).

Japan’s Idemitsu Kosan has been given the greenlight to expand the nearby Boggabri coal mine.

In welcoming Mr Burke’s announcement, Whitehaven Coal managing director Tony Haggarty said:

“We are pleased that the Minister has now stated that based on the conditions laid down, he is satisfied the project can proceed without unacceptable impacts on matters protected under national environmental law. Notwithstanding the stringent environmental conditions which have been placed on the project and the difficult coal market at present, this is an excellent project and Whitehaven will be seeking to bring it into production as soon as possible.”

According to Whitehaven, Maules Creek in the Gunnedah Basin holds one of the world’s most viable and largest reserves of 320 million tons of marketable high quality coal. The company said it expects the project to generate a total of A$1.9 billion in annual direct and indirect revenue. (US$1=A$0.96).