Whitehaven Coal has released its December 2013 quarter results, showing that the company set a number of quarterly production, railings and sales records, due to strong production from the Narrabri mine.
- Whitehaven’s managed saleable coal production was 2.860 million t and coal sales were 3.156 million t for the December quarter. This was 44% and 52% higher than the previous corresponding period, respectively.
- ROM coal production from the Narrabri mine exceeded its nameplate capacity over a number of weeks during Q4 2013 and totalled 1.924 million t (100% basis) for the quarter, 81% higher than the previous corresponding period.
- The Werris Creek mine expansion was completed in December 2013.
- A judgment handed down by the Federal Court dismissed a legal challenge to the validity of the Federal Environmental Minister’s approval of the Maules Creek project.
- The first stage of artefact salvage works for the Maules Creek project was completed. The New South Wales Department of Planning and Infrastructure has advised Whitehaven that it is satisfied the company is in full compliance with its obligations under the Aboriginal Archaeology and Cultural Heritage management plan.
- Construction of the rail line and other facilities for the Maules Creek project has commenced.
- The interest covenant package for Whitehaven’s AU$ 1.2 billion corporate debt facility was amended to align with the current Maules Creek construction and production schedule.
Coal sales and market outlook
Total coal sales for Q4 2013 were 3.156 million t, up 52% on the previous corresponding period. Export sales comprised 0.623 million t of metallurgical coal and 2.480 million t of thermal coal. There was an additional 0.053 million t of domestic thermal coal sales in the final quarter of 2013.
Whitehaven Coal achieved an average price of US$ 103/t for the sales of metallurgical coal in Q4. The price for these products in the first quarter of this year is expected to be approximately US$ 101/t FOB.
GlobalCOAL’s NEWC thermal coal prices increased by US$ 4.48/t from US$ 81.38/t in October to US$ 85.86/t in December. The price increase was due to restocking taking place prior to the onset of the seasonally strong northern hemisphere winter as well as stronger demand in North Asia. The thermal coal market remains relatively well supplied for 2014 with pricing likely to be guided by the recent stronger pricing in the December quarter.
Additionally, South Korea is planning to implement a ‘flat tax’ on all coal imports, which should favour higher quality coal imports like Whitehaven coals compared with lower quality coals.
Recent metallurgical coal price settlements by the mining giants saw a reduction in the price for all metallurgical coal types for the first quarter of 2014. The hard coking coal price was settled at US$ 143/t with low volatile PCI and semi-soft coking coal benchmark prices settled at US$ 116/t and US$ 103.50/t, respectively. North Asian steelmakers maximised their hot metal production in the December quarter leading to increased use of low volatile PCI rather than semi-soft coking coal. Exports from Australia during 2013 increased as mines recovered from the 2011 floods and new mine production came on-stream. Prices are expected to remain at these levels for the remainder of 2014 and then increase into 2015.
Records continued to be set for longwall production at the Narrabri mine during Q4. ROM coal production for the period was 1.924 million t and a weekly production record of 193 000 t was set in early November. On an annualised basis, production for the quarter exceeded the nameplate capacity (6.0 million tpa) of the mine, a significant achievement for a mine that has only been operating commercially for just over one year.
Mining in the second longwall panel was completed in mid January with redeployment of the longwall equipment to panel three running ahead of schedule. Planned recommencement of longwall production will be in early March.
Tarrawonga mine ROM coal production of 0.53 million t and saleable coal production of 0.394 million t were 8% higher and 11% lower than the previous corresponding period.
Rocglen Mine ROM coal production was 0.287 million t and saleable coal production was 0.236 million t, 13% and 11% lower than the previous corresponding period, respectively. Production was impacted by complex geological conditions encountered in the open cut.
Werris Creek mine
Werris Creek Mine produced 0.540 million t ROM and 0.460 million t of saleable coal, respectively 48% and 40% higher than the previous corresponding period. The expansion to an annualised rate of 2.5 million t was completed in December.
Maules Creek project
Construction of the Maules Creek project commenced following the completion of the first stage of salvage works under the Aboriginal Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management Plan.
Leighton Contractors, which was appointed to construct the rail line for the Maules Creek project and the Boggabri Mine, began mobilising to the site in early November. Construction on the line started in early January. Construction of the pipeline to bring in water for the construction activity and the mine began in late December.
Federal Court Justice Cowdroy handed down his judgment on 20th December in the legal proceedings challenging the Federal Environment Minister’s approval of the Maules Creek project under the EPBC Act.
Whitehaven is expecting to let further contracts for the construction of mine infrastructure and the procurement of mining equipment in late January. First coal is expected in the first quarter of 2015.
Whitehaven has continued to work through the approval process with the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure with good progress being made on the few outstanding issues. The company is currently negotiating Voluntary Planning Agreements with the two local councils in the area. Approval is expected to be granted in Q2 2014.
A number of rail track infrastructure projects designed to expand capacity of the Gunnedah Basin rail system are progressing on schedule. These projects are due to be completed in time for the commencement of production from the Maules Creek mine.
The first stage of the 30 t axle load trial, which began in August 2013 by using a large locomotive, is due to be completed by the end of January. It is anticipated that the locomotive, which is equipped with extensive monitoring equipment, will continue to operate beyond January to collect more data for ARTC, the rail owner. Current plans are for the rail line to be upgraded to 30 t axle loads by the beginning of 2015 in time for production from Maules Creek.
Pacific National and Whitehaven have agreed to extend their rail haulage contract from 2020 until 2026. Whitehaven will benefit from reduced coal haulage freight rates in the period until the end of the extended contract. The new contract will see the introduction of two new larger trains capable of 30 t axle loads and the retirement of three small trains from use on the system. The combination of larger capacity trains and fewer train paths will reduce costs for both Pacific National and Whitehaven.
Whitehaven spent a total of AU$ 0.238 million on exploration during Q4 2013. The company was granted the Wean exploration tenement by the NSW government during the quarter. The tenement is adjacent to the Vickery project and offers the potential to expand the Vickery complex.
Adapted from press release by Katie Woodward
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcoal.com/coal/23012014/whitehaven_coal_q4_record_production_442/