Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting has opened a 100 000 tonne per year test pit at its Alpha Coalmine.
The $7.5 billion mine, which is based in Queensland Galilee Basin, could lead the region to “eventually rival the Hunter Valley region for coal production,” Federal resources minister Martin Ferguson said.
If the pit is successful Rinehart will re-name the mine Tad’s Corner after executive director Tad Watroba.
The mine is predicted to produce approximately 30 million tonnes of thermal coal per year after a five year ramp up beginning in 2014.
The pit has been launched to satisfy off take and equity partners concerns regarding the quality of the coal.
"The whole idea is to get equity participants into the project, who of course will get more comfort as we finish the bankable feasibility study and get through some more of the approvals," Rinehard told The Australian.
"The test pit is showing what we say it is and what we believe it to be.”
The feasibility study is due to be completed in March 2011.
The launch of Alpha, and its nearby Kevin’s Corner mine could increase total Australian coal output by 20 percent.