Mine begins loading steel making coal

THE final major Central Queensland mine developed by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance at the height of the resources boom in 2011 has begun loading steel-making coal ahead of schedule, although the company maintains it is "98% complete".

The $4 billion Moranbah mine - with $2 billion funnelled in from BMA - joins sister project Daunia opened last year, both relying on staff recruited entirely from south-east Queensland and Cairns.

The project needed 2000 workers during the construction of the open-cut mine, with just 500 working on site now that mine is ticking over.

Although Caval Ridge is likely to be given an official launch, BMA is so far keeping mum on the details.

Meanwhile, BHP Billiton chief executive officer Andrew Mackenzie [COR] told investors on Wednesday its seven working Central Queensland mines broke production records, by hitting 11.4 million tonnes of coal for the first three months of 2014.

He said the increase was thanks to better productivity at the mines - which include Blackwater, Goonyella, Peak Downs, Saraji, South Walker and Poitrel and Gregory - plus the "ramp up" of Daunia.

He said steel-making coal production for this financial year so far went up 24%, putting the full-year target up by 2.5 million tonnes to 43.5 Mt in total.

Although Caval Ridge can now be crossed off BMA's to-do list, it will still have 12 months before the $3 billion expansion of Hay Point coal terminal can follow suit.

BMA were contacted for comment but declined.