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BHP Billiton today announced approval of the stage one development of the Maruwai metallurgical coal basin in Indonesia for a capital investment of approximately US$100 million.

Maruwai is the generic name for a large, high quality metallurgical coal deposit in Central and East Kalimantan that was discovered by BHP Billiton Minerals Exploration in the late 1990s.

The initial development project is the Haju open cut mine, along with an associated river port. The Haju mine (100 per cent BHP Billiton owned) is a small, discrete coal deposit within the Maruwai basin that will initially produce approximately 1 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of metallurgical coal, with expansion potential to approximately 2 mtpa.

Construction will start immediately, with first production expected in mid-calendar year 2009.

BHP Billiton President Coal, Dave Murray, said the approval to develop the Haju mine was an important step in the first stage of BHP Billiton’s Maruwai metallurgical coal development.

"Today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to growing further our coal business to meet continued strong demand.

"The Haju mine will be a trial to guide us in the development of the next stage in our Maruwai development. Part of this trial will be to ensure that Haju is developed in an environmentally responsible way and that it also meets our commitment to providing sustained benefits to the local communities," he said.

A feasibility study is currently underway for development of a 3-5 mtpa coal mine at the larger Lampunut deposit at Maruwai.

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