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Australia miners propose Newcastle coal port upgrade

SYDNEY, July 28 (Reuters) - Australian miners have proposed helping to fund a A$2.5 billion ($2.4 billion) expansion of Australia’s largest coal-handling port at Newcastle, the Australian Financial Review said on Monday.

The proposal would double the east coast port's annual capacity to more than 210 million tonnes by 2013 and is backed by 14 miners, including BHP Billiton BHP.AXBLT.L, Xstrata XTA.L and Rio Tinto's RIO.AXRIO.L Coal & Allied CNA.AX, the business daily said.

“The proposal ... is aimed at easing chronic bottlenecks constraining the amount of coal the miners can ship to meet record demand from electricity generators and steel makers in Asia,” the paper said.

But it added that the New South Wales state government was concerned that the privately funded project could hamper competition by discouraging new coal miners from further developing coal resources in the Hunter Valley, west of the port. ($1=1.045 Australian Dollar) (Reporting by Mark Bendeich; editing by Jonathan Standing)

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