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A 50:50 joint venture between BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi Development, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA), has opened its new $3.4bn Caval Ridge metallurgical coal mine in central Queensland.

Located in the northern Bowen Basin, the open cut Caval Ridge mine will initially produce around 5.5 million tonnes of premium quality metallurgical coal a year.

BHP Billiton coal president Dean Dalla Valle said: "The operation will produce metallurgical coal for the steel industry and has been constructed with the latest technology to be one of the most productive, sustainable and highly performing metallurgical coal mines in the world.

"Energy efficiency is a key focus for the mine and was built into its design and management system. This includes the use of highly efficient equipment and the optimisation of truck, shovel and dragline movements. This improves the efficiency of our energy use and helps minimise our greenhouse gas emissions."

"The Caval Ridge mine is a A$5bn investment to create 500 on-going jobs and it’s created over 2,000 construction jobs." 

The mine is BMA’s eighth in the region and has a mine-life of around 60 years, with the potential for further expansion.

The company has plans to increase its equity production of metallurgical coal to meet global demands, especially from Japan.

"We are confident that if we maintain our productivity focus then we will continue to have a globally competitive business that will provide employment opportunities for generations to come," Valle added.

The Caval Ridge mine has created approximately 500 jobs in Queensland. The workforce is 21% female, 3% indigenous and 43% new-to-industry employees from Cairns and Brisbane.

Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott was quoted by ABC as saying: "While there has been job shedding in the coal industry here in central Queensland over the last year or so, it’s not all bad news.

"The Caval Ridge mine is a A$5bn investment to create 500 on-going jobs and it’s created over 2,000 construction jobs.

"It will add something like $32 million a year to the Moranbah economy."

Image: BMA is Australia’s largest exporter of metallurgical coal. Photo: courtesy of BHP Billiton.