A partner in the Maules Creek coal mine has announced it will divest from thermal coal mines by 2024.

Japanese firm Itochu made the pledge to prioritise decarbonisation after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga committed the nation to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Itochu owns 15 per cent of Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine, and talks are being planned about its future. 

Whitehaven managing director Paul Flynn responded to Itochu’s announcement on Wednesday, saying; “The only relevant [question] for us is, does that include Maules or not?”

“They have previously said ‘No’. Whether or not that has changed, we have heard nothing from them in that regard,” he told investors on Thursday.

“That is a 15 per cent stake, that will be very interesting to see what unfolds there.

“We will have to wait until they explain themselves further.”

Whitehaven is expected to get first refusal on Itochu's stake, as most mine joint venture agreements contain “pre-emptive rights” along those lines. 

“Maules is a great asset. We love it as you know and it is doing very well,” said Mr Flynn.