The New South Wales (NSW) state government in Australia has given its clearance to Bengalla coal mine to increase output by a third and continue mining until 2038.

The majority of the open-cut mine is owned by Rio Tinto. It is located 4km south-west of Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales.

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Coal & Allied, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto and the mine’s 40% partner Wesfarmers have been seeking the clearance to continue mining and raise production of thermal coal to 15 million run of mine (ROM) tonnes per year.

Wesfarmers Resources managing director Stewart Butel said the approval secured the long term future for the mine and its workforce.

Stewart Butel said: "This is very good news for the workforce of 400, their families and the local community.

"This is very good news for the workforce of 400, their families and the local community."

"We have been an integral part of the Muswellbrook community since operations began 16 years ago and we look forward to continuing this into the future."

Following the development consent, Wesfarmers’ future operations at the mine are expected to move further away from Muswellbrook on land which is already owned by Bengalla and Coal & Allied.

The Bengalla mine is managed by Coal & Allied, part of Rio Tinto Coal Australia.

Coal & Allied acquired its interest in Bengalla in 2001, and is the manager of the site on behalf of the joint venture partners, CNA Bengalla Investments, Wesfarmers Bengalla,Taipower Bengalla and Mitsui Bengalla Investments.

The mine, which supplies international markets with up to six million tonnes of thermal coal per year, produced more than five million tonnes of thermal coal in 2008.

Image: Bengalla coal mine is located in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. Photo: courtesy of Wesfarmers Resources.