Approval of Whitehaven's mine expansion threatens state forests

The New South Wales state government has given its approval to proposed expansions to Whitehaven Coal's (ASX:WHC) Tarrawonga mine in Gunnedah Basin, one of three mining projects in the area which imperil the Leard State Forest.

Fairfax reports that the new state approval gives Whitehaven permission to raise output from 2 to 3 million tonnes of coal per year, as well as extend the life of the project to 2030.

The project, along with Whitehaven's Maules Creek project and Japanese miner Idemitsu's Boggabri expansion, all require the clearing of most of the Leard State Forest, and have triggered fervent opposition from environmental groups.

Earlier this month Jonathan Moylan,an activist with Front Line Action on Coal, caused Whitehaven shares to dive 9% by issuing a fake ANZ press release claiming that the bank had withdrawn a loan to Whitehaven.

The proposed expansion must still clear the hurdle of approval from federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, who will will also decide on the adjacent Maules Creek project and Boggabri expansion.

Whitehaven partner in the Tarrawonga mine is Japanese miner Idemitsu, who holds a 30%, and is also behind slated expansions to Boggabri.