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Australia's Whitehaven Coal gets covenant relief on $1.1 billion debt

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's Whitehaven Coal Ltd (ASX:WHC) said on Monday it had been granted approval from its banking syndicate to amend its A$1.2 billion ($1.1 billion) debt facility following delays in getting its key Maules Creek project up and running.

Whitehaven, Australia's second-largest independent coal miner, has been working with lenders to amend its debt facility for months, with uncertainty and weak international coal markets weighing on its share price.

Due to delays in government approvals for the mine, which the firm now has, and an environmental court challenge, to be ruled on in December, first sales from the project are expected in the first quarter of 2015 at the earliest.

Under the revised conditions, the first date for the interest coverage ratio test has been pushed out as late as December 2015, from December 2014, Whitehaven said.

"The amended covenant accommodates the delays to the Maules Creek project, and is designed to provide flexibility to match the project timetable," Whitehaven said in a statement to the ASX.

The four lead lenders are Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ.AX), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX), Macquarie Group (MQG.AX) and National Australia Bank (NAB.AX).

Shares in Whitehaven closed on Friday at A$1.63, having hit an all-time love of A$1.47 in November. ($1 = 1.0943 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Nick Zieminski)