Coal production has begun at Rio Tinto's US$ 2 billion Kestrel mine extension.
According to the miner, this new extension will add another two decades to the life of the Kestrel project, which is currently Rio Tinto's only underground coal operation and has been in operation since 1999.
The extension was first approved in 2007, with construction starting in late 2008.
It expects to be in full production within the next two months.
John Coughlan, Kestrel's mine manager, stated that "after four years of construction, seeing the longwall cutting coal is an exciting milestone and marks the start of a long future for Kestrel mine".
"We process high quality coking coal for export using the longwall method and expect to see our first shipment from this new area of the mine leave Australia in the coming weeks."
Rio stated that it will use an EL3000 Caterpillar longwall miner, which is capable of cutting 5000 tonnes per hour.
The shearer was painted pink as part of Rio Tinto's partnership with the McGrath Foundation.
Coughlan went on to say that "over the coming year and a half we'll see a gradual transition of production as our existing operation, known as Kestrel North, winds down and the new Kestrel South operation ramps up."
It will reach full capacity by the end of next year and produce an average of 5.7 million tonnes per annum for the life of the mine.
The mine extension project itself involved the construction of a new longwall, an eight kilometre overland conveyor which will carry more than 3500 tonnes of coal per hour, and upgrades to the CHPP on site.
"Not only will this 20 year extension provide a secure future for our workforce of more than 400 and long term supply for our customers.
The mine is located around 300 kilometres from the Port of Gladstone.