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The Planning Assessment Commission has approved one of the biggest open-cut coal mines in the world in north-west New South Wales.
Whitehaven's Maules Creek Project, near the Leard State Forest, will extract 12 million tonnes of raw coal a year.
Whitehaven expects production at the mine to start mid-2013, with operations predicted to last around 30 years.
Managing director Tony Haggarty says stringent environmental conditions have been applied by the commission.
He says the mine will be good for the region economically and good for the state.
"It's one of the best coal developments in the world," he said.
"It's a large reserve, it's very good quality. It's the sort of coal that is in demand in the market place and because the reserve is large and because it has a long life there will be a significant area of land involved."
But environmentalist Phil Spark says the Planning Assessment Commission's approval is a blow to the endangered trees and animals that live in the forest.
"My biggest concern is that the environment has been totally undervalued," he said.
"You just can't destroy a forest and think it's going to be compensated. It's an endangered ecological community and it just can't be replaced."
The Maules Creek Project is about 18 kilometres north of Boggabri, in the Gunnedah Basin.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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