Billiton to sell Lake Macquarie underground operations

BILLITON subsidiary Coal Operations Australia Ltd (COAL) has announced plans to sell its 80% interest in three underground coal operations near Lake Macquarie, 100km north of Sydney.

Staff Reporter

The mines together produce about 1.6 million tonnes a year of high-quality Wallarah Brand thermal coal, sold domestically and overseas.


The assets to be divested include the Moonee longwall mine, the Chain Valley continuous miner operation, and Wallarah colliery, currently on care and maintenance. Also included are the Catherine Hill Bay preparation plant and the vessel MV Wallarah. The assets are held by the Wallarah Coal Joint Venture, 80% owned by COAL and 20% by Nissho Iwai Corp.


COAL, which controls about 4Mt of coal production in Australia, cited the relatively small size of the operations as a reason for the divestment.


“COAL believes that a smaller mine operator may be able to extract more value from the operations and thus improve their performance, viability and economic life.”


No buyers had been identified and COAL will continue the businesses until they are sold.


The company said it remains firmly committed to growth in the industry “evidenced through its recent decision to acquire the minority interests in the Bayswater Joint Venture, the ongoing process towards development of Mount Arthur North, and the continuation of its exploration and feasibility studies at Wyong.”


The latter project is in the early stages of pre-feasibility to examine the establishment of a 10Mtpa dual longwall operation in three to four years time.