THE future of the proposed Maules Creek coalmine won’t be known for another two-and-a-half months after the Federal Environment Minister delayed his decision yesterday.
The Minister, Tony Burke, was due to either approve or reject the project near Boggabri after the deadline had already been extended once before.
Mr Burke will now make a determination by April 30.
A decision on Idemitsu’s Boggabri coalmine extension was also extended until that time.
The company behind Maules Creek, Whitehaven Coal, expressed its disappointment with the decision.
Whitehaven managing director Tony Haggarty said they were extremely disappointed at a further delay to the important project, the approval process for which began in August, 2010.
Mr Haggarty said the company had spent many months working with the relevant authorities to promptly and thoroughly address any questions they had in relation to the project, as well as providing full details of the benefits to the region.
“Whitehaven is not aware of any substantive issues with the environmental evaluations or process which has been followed,” he said.
Environmentalists welcomed the minister’s decision, with many having campaigned against the mine for the past year.
The Lock The Gate Alliance said the minister’s decision was wise, but had exposed gaping holes in the NSW planning process which approved the mines.
“His decision contrasts sharply with the approach of the NSW government which has been to rush through approval for these mines no matter what the cost to the environment and the community or how inadequate the science,” Lock the Gate campaigner Carmel Flint said.
Following yesterday’s decision, independent member for New England Tony Windsor was quick to point out the Maules Creek mine approval process had nothing to do with recent claims about the state government’s handling of the coal seam gas industry.
Mr Windsor said allegations by some that issues he was involved with in relation to the coal seam gas and water issues had nothing to do with the project.
“As I understand it, the Maules Creek issue is about vegetation offsets under legislation set up by John Howard 13 years ago, not the “water trigger” issue that I have been raising in terms of exploration licences,” he said.