While hard coking coal output from Queensland fell to 2.12 million tonnes, production of thermal and semi-soft coal increased 5% thanks to an increase in port allocations.
In the US, Rio’s attributable share of production was down due to the initial public offering of Cloud Peak Energy in November last year.
Rio now holds 48.3% in the Antelope, Cordero Rojo and Spring Creek mines, a 24.1% in Decker and 100% in Colowyo.
US coal production for the quarter was 17.09Mt.
Coal & Allied, 76% owned by Rio, increased its total saleable coal production by 11% and its sales by 12% year-on-year for the December quarter as it enters term take-or-pay contracts with Port Waratah Coal Services.
Total production attributable to the Rio Tinto subsidiary reached 5.28Mt for the last three months of 2009, up 5.9% from the previous quarter.
Coal & Allied’s share of total sales reached 5.38Mt for the December quarter, an improvement of 14% over the previous three-month period.
The producer’s wholly owned Hunter Valley Operations increased thermal coal production by 5.8% year-on-year to 2.4Mt in the December quarter while semi-soft coking output rose 36% to 644,000 tonnes.
But the semi-soft coking coal figures were also 44% down on the 1.15Mt produced in the September quarter as result of a change in mine sequencing.
Semi-soft coking coal increased 61% year-on-year to 818.000t for the December quarter at the producer’s 80%-owned Mount Thorley operations.
Coal & Allied said the operation continued to mine through an area with a higher stripping ratio.
Total coal produced at Coal & Allied’s 55%-owned Warkworth miner fell 27% year-on-year to 1.31Mt in the December quarter, also slipping 17% from the previous three-month period.
The producer, which also holds 40% of the Bengalla mine, accounted for 18.96Mt of coal output for 2009, a marginal improvement of less than 1% from 2008.
Coal & Allied is now using long-term take-or-pay contracts for port allocation with PWCS but said similar contracts to secure equivalent rail track access and rail freight access were still being negotiated.
The Hunter Coal Export Framework, agreed to by Newcastle port operators, the state government and the Hunter coal industry, took effect on New Year’s Day.
The framework replaces the long-criticised capacity balancing system and is tipped to boost coal export revenue to the tune of $6.5 billion per year by 2016.