The future of Dartbrook underground mine near Aberdeen looks questionable following the sudden resignation of Australian Pacific Coal's (AQC) executive chairman and managing director, John Robinson Jr.
In early 2016 AQC bought the mine, which has been in care and maintenance since 2006, from Anglo American and Mr Robinson had been the most prominent face of the company promoting its plans to reopen the mine as a 'bord and pillar' operation.
Mr Robinson attended a community meeting held in Aberdeen to discuss the mine's reopening plans.
In August this year the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) approved the company's plans to reopen the mine but for three years until 2020.
The Commissioners refused to extend the life of the mine for further five years until 2027 as requested by AQC due to questions concerning the economic viability of the project.
In the statement to the ASX earlier this month the company said they will seek to have the decision amended, within the current NSW guidelines for coal mining projects to permit the restart of of the mining operations.
Of particular interest in the statement is the sentence referring to a request to gain more 'flexability' in the relation to the manner in which the mine is restarted and operated.
Financial statements from AQC make it clear that the company is operating on the goodwill of two investors (Nick Paspaley and John Robinson via unit trust, Trepang).
Local sources have confirmed to the Singleton Argus that one local business is owed a substantial debt by AQC.
It would appear Mr Robinson along with other investors were duped into buying the mine from Anglo on the basis they were told that it was a good asset and provided a great business opportunity.
Nathan Tinkler was heavily involved in the sale process saying at the time he wanted to see Dartbrook converted from an underground mine to an open cut operation.
AQC investors who have held the stock for three years have seen the share price decline by 92% according to a online share report. The falls have accelerated recently, with the share price down 60% in the last three months (to September).
If it all goes pear shaped Anglo may end up owning the mine once again next year.