Australia’s Resourcehouse signed a $60bn, 20-year export contract with China Power International Development, under which the latter will annually purchase 30 million tons of coal for $3bn, the biggest Australian export deal ever signed.

The agreement strengthens China and Australia’s commercial relationship, with Australia being China’s largest coal supplier and China the biggest coal producer and consumer in the world.

The coal will come from a mine in Queensland, which is currently under development and is expected to annually generate 40 million tons from 2014.

The project will include two surface mines, four underground mines and associated handling and processing units, with development expected to kick start in the second half of the year depending on federal and state government approvals.

The Export-Import Bank of China will lend nearly $5.6bn out of the total $8bn required for development of the project.