Shares in Whitehaven Coal jumped as much as 11 per cent after the federal government approved its key growth project, the Maules Creek coal mine.
Whitehaven shares, about one-fifth owned by former billionaire Nathan Tinkler, rose to a high of $3.28 and closed up 23 cents, or 7.7 per cent, at $3.19.
The federal government last night granted conditional approval to the Maules Creek project, with Environment Minister Tony Burke setting conditions for environmental protection.
In a statement issued after the close of the sharemarket, Mr Burke said he was satisfied the Maules Creek and Boggabri coal mine projects could go ahead without unacceptable environmental impacts.
The decision came four days after Whitehaven said it expected the government to delay a decision until late April.
Mr Burke said he brought the decision forward after the New South Wales state government released sensitive information about the project.
He also gave conditional approval for AGL Energy’s Gloucester coal seam methane project.
‘‘In each of these three additional approvals there is more work to be concluded before the project can actually proceed,’’ Mr Bourke said.
The Maules Creek and Boggabri projects, in an agricultural region and in a state forest, have been opposed by environmental and farming groups.
Conditions include limits for clearance of native vegetation and provisions for offset areas of more than 15,000 hectares to compensate for works related to the coal developments, according to the statement.
The approval for the Gloucester project is subject to AGL meeting 36 conditions, it said.
Community and environment activists say the project threatens koala habitats, thousands of hectares of old growth forests and will force farmers off their land through soil damage.
Mr Burke said he looked at the likely ecological impacts on the critically endangered blakely’s red gum and yellow box trees, as well as swift parrot populations.
The companies must minimise their impacts on the Leard State Forest and provide ‘‘enduring protection’’ for more than 15,000 hectares of offset projects in the surrounding areas.
These proposed offset areas aim to build wildlife corridors between the Maules Creek and Boggabri mine - controlled by Japanese company Idemitsu - to protect native species.
There are also limits on clearance rates of native vegetation, and a requirement for $2.5 million to be invested in rehabilitation research for threatened species.
The Gloucester CST project was subject to 36 conditions, and won’t go ahead until a hydrogeological model is carried out, conducted to determine any potential impacts on groundwater, Mr Burke said.
He had considered advice on this from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Coal Mining, as required by law.
NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee said the Maules Creek and Boggabri mines would deliver jobs and boost economic growth in regional NSW.
‘‘These two projects will help underpin the long term economic strength of the New England North West region and the NSW economy more broadly,’’ Mr Galilee said in a statement.
The proposals were subject to some of the strictest approval and assessment protocols in the world, so the community should be confident the companies will meet very high environmental standards, he said.
Bloomberg, Reuters, AAP