Australian rail freight operator Aurizon has secured an extension to an existing coal haulage contract for BHP Billiton’s Mt Arthur Coal mine in the Hunter Valley.

Aurizon’s haulage contract for the mine was supposed to be sealed in 2020 and will now run until June 2028 as part of the extension.

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The contract will also allow for an increase in the company’s coal haulage volumes from the existing 18 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) up to a maximum of 26mtpa.

Aurizon said that the new contract will deliver a flexible agreement for both the companies.

"BHP Billiton was Aurizon’s foundation customer in the Hunter Valley when we commenced operations in the region in 2005."

Aurizon commercial and marketing executive vice-president Mauro Neves said: "Aurizon is delighted to extend its long-term relationship with BHP Billiton in New South Wales.

"BHP Billiton was Aurizon’s foundation customer in the Hunter Valley when we commenced operations in the region in 2005."

"The recent opening of our $180m Hexham Train Support Facility in Newcastle is a signal of our commitment and confidence in the local coal industry."

During the financial year of 2015, Aurizon hauled 42.9 million tonnes of coal in the Hunter Valley.

Located near the town of Muswellbrook in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley coal region, the Mt Arthur open-cut thermal coal mine currently produces about 16 million tonnes per year for local as well as customers abroad in the energy sector.

Earlier in March 2016, BHP Billiton announced 290 job cuts at the mine as part of its efforts to revive the profitability of the mine.