BHP Billiton in partnership with Mitsubishi has officially opened its $3.8 billion Caval Ridge coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, creating 500 new operational jobs for state locals.

Delivered below budget and three months ahead of schedule, the coal mine marks BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance’s (BMA) eighth project in the region and will produce 5.5 million tonnes of metallurgical coal per annum.

BMA currently employs more than 7000 workers in the Bowen Basin, making it the largest employer in the region. BHP Billiton Coal president Dean Dalla Valle said the diversity of the Caval Ridge coal mine workforce would ‘help shape a positive and productive culture at site’.

“Caval Ridge Mine’s workforce, who commute from Cairns and Brisbane, include 21% females, 3% Indigenous and 43% new-to-industry employees, he said.

“We have invested considerably in recruiting and training new entrants to the coal industry who will work alongside some of our experienced operators.

“Having a FIFO operation enabled us to reach a wider potential employee pool across the State, not only bringing greater diversity but also enabling us to share the economic benefits of the mine more broadly. Over 30,000 people applied for around 950 roles at Caval Ridge and its sister mine Daunia.”

Mr Dalla Valle also described the opening of the new mine as a milestone for the region.

“This 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.

“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.

“Since commencing operation, the Caval Ridge team has already achieved an Australian record for the amount of overburden moved by a shovel in one week.”

Government support for coal industry

Guest speaking at the Caval Ridge mine opening yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott welcomed the project as an benefit to Australia’s economy, voicing support for the coal sector’s continued growth.

“The Caval Ridge mine will add $30 million to the Moranbah local economy, and it will also add tens of millions of dollars every year to the wider regional and statewide and national economy,” he said.

“This is a sign of hope and confidence in the future of the coal industry. Coal is essential for the prosperity of Australia and for the prosperity of the world. Energy is what sustains prosperity and coal is the world’s principle energy source and it will be for many decades to come.”

In particular, Prime Minister Abbott said China’s decision to impose tariffs on coal imports was ‘disappointing’.

“We support lower tariffs, we support freer trade. Obviously, we’re disappointed that this tariff has come on,” he said.

“We think that it’s inconsistent with the general direction of our trade and China’s trade, but what it does do is highlight the importance of the free trade agreement which we are working towards with China.”

Negotiations toward a free trade agreement with China are ongoing with an outcome expected to be reached before the G20 Summit, taking place in Brisbane next month.