Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott joined executives of the world's biggest mining company, BHP Billiton, on Monday to officially open its new 3.4 billion U.S. dollar Caval Ridge coal mine in Queensland.
The opening of the new mine comes at a time when Australia's coal sector is struggling with low prices, and new tariffs for imports into China. And last month BHP announced it was cutting 700 jobs from its Queensland coal operations.
But on Monday, BHP coal president Dean Dalla Valle said the opening of the mine was a significant milestone for the company.
"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," he said in a statement.
Caval Ridge Mine is the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA)' s eighth operation in the region and will initially produce up to 5.5 million tonnes per annum of premium quality metallurgical coal. The mine was delivered below budget, and produced its first coal three months ahead of schedule.