Mining magnate Nathan Tinkler, Whitehaven Coal Ltd.’s biggest shareholder, said the start of its A$766 million ($810 million) Maules Creek mine in Australia has been delayed by a year as it awaits government approvals.
“We expected an approval on Maules Creek during the third quarter of last year and here we are in the third quarter of this year -- it’s 12 months late,” said Tinkler, who leads a group offering to buy the rest of Whitehaven in a A$5.3 billion deal.
Mining companies developing a record pipeline of projects in Australia, the world’s biggest shipper of iron ore and coal, are struggling to bring operations into production on time and on budget. Whitehaven, which bought Maules Creek as part of a A$2.7 billion takeover of Tinkler’s Aston Resources Ltd. last year, said in December it expected to start output in mid-2013, before revising that plan in July to the first quarter of 2014.
New South Wales’s Department of Planning and Infrastructure will “shortly finalize its assessment of the Maules Creek project and submit it to the Planning Assessment Commission for its determination,” the department said today by e-mail. It’s “aware of the complexity of the current planning system” and is outlining proposals for improvements, it said.
Whitehaven rose 5.2 percent to close at A$3.85 in Sydney, the biggest one-day gain in three weeks. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.4 percent as the central bank kept interest rates unchanged, while stocks climbed across Asia after Germany backed the European Central Bank’s bond-buying plan, boosting the outlook for exporters.
“We could employ 1,000 people in the next three months if we had those approvals,” Tinkler said in an interview yesterday in Sydney, where the company is based.
Maules Creek is expected to produce 10.5 million metric tons by 2016, Whitehaven said last month, adding that the timing of approvals was “extremely difficult to predict” in the current “dysfunctional interim NSW planning process.”
India’s GVK Group also saw an Australian coal project stalled in June, when the federal government temporarily halted an environmental approval process for a $10 billion mine in Queensland amid a disagreement with the state authorities.