Rio Tinto’s Kestrel South coal mine extension, located in central Queensland, has today been officially opened.
First coal production began back in July at the $2 billion extension which took over four years to build, more than six million hours, and used more than 3400 tonnes of steel.
But Rio Tinto energy boss Harry Kenyon-Slaney warned there are still tough times ahead for the coal sector, explaining cost control is imperative, The Australian reports.
Kenyon-Slaney said the opening of a significant new coal operation is a rare event in today’s mining market.
“To be blunt – in recent times the focus for the Australian coal industry has been more on the survival than on the development of new mines,” he said.
The underground extension will boost the site’s coking coal production to 6 million tonnes a year.
“It is equipped with a new level of automation that will deliver significant safety and production improvements,” Kenyon-Slaney said.
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls said Kestrel is evidence coal still has a strong role to play in state’s future.
"Kestrel Mine, managed by Rio Tinto, will have its life extended by 20 years with the opening of this extension and will employ more than 500 people," Nicholls said.
"Kestrel South will contribute to our expected 7.6 per cent growth in coal exports this year.
"Queensland ports are putting through tonnages at pre-GFC levels with a total of just over 34 million tonnes exported from Queensland in July and August."
Total coal exports for July and August was over 34 million tonnes and Nicholls said he is confident September’s figures will also be good.
John Coughlan, Kestrel's mine manager, said in July 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”.
Kestrel South will reach full capacity by the end of next year.