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MELBOURNE, Jan 20 (Reuters) - GVK Hancock has appointed a Rio Tinto veteran as its chief executive, as the company's joint owners India's GVK conglomerate and Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart push to line up funding for their $10 billion Alpha coal mine, rail and port project.
GVK Hancock named Darren Yeates as its new boss, replacing Paul Mulder, who was on loan from Rinehart's privately held Hancock Prospecting and has led the project over the past six years.
GVK Hancock is developing the Alpha and Kevin's Corner projects in the Galilee Basin in Australia's Queensland state, where weak coal prices have stalled several projects that need billions of dollars to build rail lines to the nearest port 500 kilometres (310 miles) away.
However compared with mines proposed by India's Adani Enterprises and billionaire Clive Palmer's Waratah Coal, among others, GVK Hancock's projects are the most advanced, having won final environmental approval last December.
"My immediate focus will be on continuing to build on the significant progress achieved to date and on driving a clear path forward to project delivery," Yeates said in a statement.
The company said last August it aims to start construction on the 32 million tonnes a year Alpha mine, 79 percent owned by GVK and 21 percent owned by Hancock Prospecting, this year, targeting first production in early 2017.
GVK also wants to start building the Kevin's Corner mine in 2015 and start producing there in 2018.
Yeates, who was acting managing director of Rio Tinto Coal Australia until last year, was not available to comment further.
Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin