Australia's Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC) hit another roadblock on Monday when dozens of protesting traditional owners formed a picket line at the company's Maules Creek mine and workers walked off the job in north-west New South Wales, The Guardian reports.
The project received final government approval last week after three years of regulatory review during which the company spent A$160 million. Whitehaven was expecting to begin construction of roads and other infrastructure this week and to be selling coal by the second half of 2014.
“The project has been through one of the most rigorous planning approvals processes ever undertaken by a mine in New South Wales and has been reviewed by a wide range of highly regarded environmental experts,” Paul Flynn, the company's managing director said in a statement last Thursday.
But aboriginal communities are not convinced and are concerned that the mine will eliminate 4000 acres of "culturally significant forest, artefacts and cultural values," Stephen Talbot, a spokesman for traditional owners told The Guardian.
Talbot says the protests will continue on Tuesday with more demonstrators expected to attend.
The Maules Creek open cut mine is expected to extract up to 13 Mt of coal per year and would clear areas of the Leard State Forest where Whitehaven operates another mine, the Tarrawonga project.
Idemitsu Kosan, a Japanese mining company, also operates a coal mine in the Leard forest.
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