BHP Billiton has submitted plans to Australia’s Federal Environment Department for what would be the largest underground coal mine in the country.
The Caroona Mine near Gunnedah in New South Wales could export 10 Mt (11 million stpy) of high-quality thermal coal with production starting as early as 2021, The Australian reported.
BHP said the mine, which is facing significant community opposition, would run for 30 years and employ up to 400 people operating it.
At peak construction, 600 workers would be employed.
The documents kickstart the environmental approval process for the mine, which is yet to be approved by the company or governments.
Opposition to the mine has been around its impact on the region’s water.
“The preliminary environmental studies undertaken for the Gateway submission indicate that the proposed underground mine will not impact the alluvial irrigation aquifers essential for agricultural production in the area,” BHP’s NSW thermal coal asset president Peter Sharpe said.
The documents say construction of the first stage would take three years.
The company has previously said construction could start in 2018 but had given no indication of the size of the planned mine.