Whitehaven Coal's bad year has got worse after the federal government delayed a decision on plans for one of the world's largest coal mines in NSW.
The company's shares plunged following Environment Minister Tony Burke and his department's decision to extend their timeframe for considering the controversial Maules Creek project and its environmental impacts until April 30.
The stock closed nearly six per cent weaker at $3.02.
That follows a similar fall last week when it more than halved half year earnings forecasts to below $10 million, unless weak coal prices lifted and the high Australian dollar remained unchanged.
Maules Creek would be a game-changing mine for Whitehaven if it went ahead.
It is expected to produce 10.8 million tonnes of a coal a year (Mtpa) of thermal and coking coal, with Whitehaven's current level under 10Mtpa.
It already has NSW government approval.
However the central NSW project has been targeted by environmentalists, culminating in activist Jonathan Moylan sending a press release to media outlets in early January falsely claiming the ANZ Bank had pulled its $1.2 billion loan to the miner.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is considering laying charges after the hoax temporarily wiped $314 million from the value of Whitehaven.
The federal government's decision has been delayed to seek clarification on the mine's impacts, which were of national environmental significance, said a spokesman for the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPAC).
A decision on expanding the adjacent Boggabri mine has also been delayed.
Opponents says Whitehaven would destroy 1360ha of koala habitat and force farmers off their land through soil damage if the Maules Creek mine is allowed to go ahead.
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW has called on the federal government to reject the proposal.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters on Thursday accused Whitehaven of being misleading in pledging to offset any environmental damage the mine causes, saying the trees it was planting were unsuitable as an ecological replacement.
Managing director Tony Haggarty said he was extremely disappointed and that Whitehaven had spent many months working with Mr Burke's office and staff at SEWPAC to address concerns about the mine.
"Whitehaven is not aware of any substantive issues with the environmental evaluations or process which has been followed," Mr Haggarty said in a statement.
Patersons resources analyst Andrew Harrington said the delay was disappointing as the government had not explained its reasons and appeared unwilling to face the potential of a community backlash.
Mr Harrington said Whitehaven's plan to start producing coal from the mine in 2014 could be under threat because of the government's delays in making a decision on the mine.
"This will impact on sentiment but Maules Creek is a very large long-life mine and a delay of a few months on first production has almost no impact on the value of the project," he said in a note to clients.