Whitehaven Coal Narrabri mine revises production for 2017, proposes

WHITEHAVEN Coal has announced the amount of coal it will mine from its Narrabri site this financial year will be hundreds of thousands of tonnes lower than previously expected.

The mine was expected to produce between 8 million tonnes and 8.3 million tonnes in fiscal 2017, but that number has been revised to between 7.5 million and 7.8 million tonnes.

Earlier this week, Whitehaven told the ASX that “adverse geotechnical conditions” in an area of the Narrabri mine were slowing down production.

But despite the Narrabri revision, Whitehaven said it was confident it could still reach its company-wide guidance of between 21 and 22 million tonnes for the year. 

The government had hoped the surge in coal prices would help lift its revenue and reduce the budget deficit, however the price has begun to slide again.

Meanwhile, the NSW government has put forward its draft changes to the state’s Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the changes aim to slash approval times for state significant developments such as mines, while increasing accountability.

However, environmental groups are disappointed by the proposal and say the changes would make it easier for coal mines to secure rapid approval.

Lock the Gate coordinator Georgina Woods said the proposal provided no new protections for the public or the environment.

“If you’re going to shorten decision times, then at least bring in laws to make sure the right decisions get made and that mines cannot be approved that will damage farmland, drinking water catchments and rural communities, and for pity’s sake, give communities the right to query mining approvals in court,” Ms Woods said.

“We urge the Planning Minister to take planning law changes that restore balance to parliament.”

NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee said the proposals “seem consistent” with commitments to halve assessment timeframes for major mining projects.

“However the proposed changes to the assessment of modifications may be problematic as mining projects often need approval for minor modifications during their long operating life to maintain production and protect jobs,” Mr Galilee said.

The draft bill is open for public feedback until March 10 and can be view on the department’s website.

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