Speaking at an American Chamber of Commerce lunch in Brisbane today, Henry said the coal price had declined dramatically over the course of the year, and the industry could not rely on a price recovery in the shorter term.
“Prices for metallurgical coal have fallen by a further 25-30% since the start of this calendar year and thermal coal by 10-15%,” he said.
“There are no signs of things getting better in the immediate term.”
Henry said the onus would be on coal producers to continue to lower costs and improve efficiencies to ensure the sector’s profitability.
“The financial sustainability of the Australian coal industry is wholly dependent on our ability to materially improve and sustain levels of productivity to stay one step ahead of our global competition,” he said.
Henry also said there was room for the industry to improve the quality of debate around coal.
“We can only hope to secure balanced support for the industry if we step up and help improve the quality of debate and the depth of understanding about what we do, why we do it – and how important it is,” he said.
Last week an informational campaign on the social and economic benefits of coal was launched by the Minerals Council of Australia and the Australian Coal Association Low Emission Technology covering TV, radio, press and online advertising.
Henry backed the industry to maintain its competitiveness in the long-term.
“We are confident that we and other in industry can rise to this challenge, particularly when supported by the right regulatory reform,” he said.
“Through this we can sustain industry attractiveness in a way that is good for the states, the nation, shareholders, and of course good for the more than 152,000 Australians who work in coal or are supported through related jobs.”
BHP shares were 0.8% lower at $A24.46 today.