Officials at BHP Billiton have announced the layoff of 700 workers at its central Queensland coal operations, amid a slackening market; the BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) runs seven mines in the Bowen Basin.

The job losses will "deliver further cost reductions and productivity improvements and remain viable for the long-term," company representatives said in a statement; the joint venture is one of the largest exporters of met coal.

The decision follows a review of the mines indicating the number of jobs was greater than required, they added. "With our focus on productivity and global competitiveness, we continue to assess the most effective way of safely operating our assets," BMA Asset President Lucas Dow said.

BHP Billiton owns 50% of BMA, the No. 1 employer in the Bowen Basin, with more than 10,000 employees and contractors at its operations, most of which are open pit. The announcement follows the July loss of more than 160 jobs at a coal mine in New South Wales, and 500 jobs in BHP's iron ore division earlier in 2014.

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