In his speech commemorating the opening, Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls said “Coal continues to play a vital role in the state’s economy, and I welcome this long-term commitment by Rio Tinto in Queensland. It is yet more evidence that businesses have the confidence to invest, employ and grow here.”

The treasurer joined Rio Tinto Energy Chief Executive Harry Kenyon-Slaney on an underground tour of the mine, which commenced production in July 2013. “Today we are celebrating a long-term future for Kestrel Mine and our workforce of more than 500 employees and contractors, the relationships we have with our customers and the contributions we make to the local community and Queensland,” said Kenyon-Slayney.

“This extension has delivered one of the most advanced and sophisticated underground coking coal operations built in Australia.” The new operation (Kestrel South) is expected reach full capacity by the end of 2014 as the existing mine (Kestrel North) ramps down. The longwall is capable of cutting at a nameplate capacity of 5,000 mt per hour. The mine has around 115 million mt in coal reserves, providing options for ongoing mining.