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BHP Billiton Approves Expansion Of Mt Arthur Coal Mine

BHP Billiton today announced approval for the Mt Arthur Coal mine expansion, to increase production of saleable thermal coal from 11.5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) to approximately 15 mtpa (run-of-mine coal production increasing to 20 mtpa).

The Project, known as the MAC20 Project, is expected to commence operation in the first half of calendar year 2011 at an estimated capital investment of US$260 million.

New South Wales Government approval to expand the Mt Arthur coal mine production capacity to 20 mtpa run-of-mine was granted under Mount Arthur North's existing development consent.

""The MAC20 Project approval demonstrates BHP Billiton's commitment to expanding its thermal coal business in the region. This is a great next step in the mine's development,"" Mr Dave Murray, BHP Billiton President Energy Coal said.

""Mt Arthur Coal currently employs approximately 670 staff and today's announcement will see an increase of a further approximately 190 employees, many of whom we expect will come from the surrounding towns.""

BHP Billiton's commitment to the region is also demonstrated by its US$390 million investment in the development of the new coal loading facilities at Newcastle Port as a 35 per cent shareholder in NCIG, the consortium undertaking the development.

""The new NCIG coal loading facilities will be utilised for the additional product resulting from the Project,"" Mr Murray said.

Mt Arthur Coal is located approximately five kilometres south of Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia.