Anglo American announced that the first longwall shear of steelmaking metallurgical coal has been achieved at its Aquila mine in Australia.

The company stated that the achievement marks the project’s final stages of construction and commissioning.

Situated near Middlemount in Central Queensland, the Aquila mine is said to expand Anglo American’s existing Capcoal underground operations by seven years.

The company’s nearby Grasstree mine has reached its end of life recently.

Anglo American bulk commodities CEO Themba Mkhwanazi said that the Aquila project has been developed with an investment of A$226m ($162m) on time.

The new mine is expected to have a total average annual saleable production of up to five million tonnes of premium quality hard coking coal.

Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business CEO Tyler Mitchelson said: “Safely starting up longwall mining at Aquila Mine on our original schedule, despite the effects of the pandemic, is an important milestone for our Metallurgical Coal business and will support our ongoing contribution to both the Middlemount community, and Queensland’s economy.

“The mine uses our existing infrastructure at our Capcoal complex and supports around 600 ongoing operational roles for our Queensland-based workforce, including providing continuity of employment for our Grasstree mining team.”

Claimed to be one of Australia’s most technologically advanced underground mines, the Aquila Mine consists of two fully remote-capable longwalls.

The longwalls will enable operations to continue without downtime and will be operated from a site-based remote operations centre on the surface of the mine.

The Capcoal complex includes Capcoal open cut mine, Grasstree mine, Aquila mine, the coal handling and preparation plant, as well as associated infrastructure.

Anglo American has a 70% stake in the Aquila Mine, while the remaining 30% interest is owned by Mitsui.

In April this year, Anglo American announced plans to demerger its thermal coal business in South Africa.