BHP Billiton said it has received approval for its Mt Arthur Coal mine expansion project in New South Wales, Australia.

The $260m expansion will increase production of thermal coal to 15 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) from 11.5 mtpa, with run-of-mine coal production increasing to 20m t/y.

The work, known as the MAC20 project, is expected to begin operations in the first half of 2011, BHP said.

The project is expected to create about 190 jobs and BHP’s further commitment to the area is demonstrated by its $390m investment in the development of the new coal loading facilities at Newcastle Port, the company said.