* Offer of A$1 a share pitched at 17 pct premium
* Whitehaven already owns 17.3 pct of Coalworks (Adds Itochu joint venture)
MELBOURNE, May 7 (Reuters) - Australia's Whitehaven Coal said it plans to acquire coal explorer Coalworks for A$172 million ($174 million), wrapping up a consolidation of coal projects following its takeover of Aston Resources.
Earlier this year, Whitehaven became the nation's biggest independent coal miner when it agreed a $2.5 billion takeover of Aston and a local coal explorer, both controlled by electrician-turned billionaire Nathan Tinkler.
Coalworks, another Tinkler vehicle, is developing projects close to Whitehaven's coal mines in New South Wales, including the Vickery South coking coal and thermal coal project, where it has a joint venture with Japan's Itochu Corp.
Whitehaven, which already controls 17.3 percent of Coalworks, pitched its offer at A$1.00 a share, a 17 percent premium to Coalworks' last trade, which it considered fair given Coalworks shares had already risen on takeover speculation.
Whitehaven said it would fund the takeover out of cash reserves and debt facilities.
Whitehaven closed on Friday at $4.91.
Reporting by Victoria Thieberger; Editing by Eric Meijer