New Hope keeps schedule

NEW Hope is on schedule and budget to complete the $A36 million expansion of its New Acland open cut coal mine 35km northwest of Toowoomba in Queensland, despite the gloomy financial times.

Blair Price

In his presentation to the Wilson HTM Focus on Coal conference in Sydney, New Hope managing director and chief executive officer Rob Neale confirmed the expansion of the mine – from 4.2 million tonnes per annum of production to 4.8Mtpa – would be completed in the first three months of 2010.

Neale gave a progress update on the Wetalla pipeline project to “drought proof” the mine.

With 39km of the 47km pipeline in the ground, he said the $33 million project would be completed before July this year.

He added the $65 million expansion of the Queensland Bulk Handling facility at Port of Brisbane was on track for completion in October 2010, ramping up throughput capacity from 7Mtpa to 10Mtpa.

Having reactivated the Jeebropilly mine last year to take advantage of buoyant coal prices, Neale said the mine’s costs were lower than forecast, while the New Oakleigh open cut operation would be extended past its anticipated February close in six to nine-month increments.

For exploration, Neale said wet weather had curtailed exploration access in the Darling Downs and central Queensland.

In what he considers an important development for future exploration activities, Neale said New Hope had exited its New Saraji exploration landowner arrangements.

The company finalised its $2.45 billion sale of the Bowen Basin-based coking coal project to BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance in September.

To provide a framework for future operational decisions, New Hope will conduct mine definition drilling at both Jeebropilly and New Oakleigh.

Unlike some other coal producers, Neale said New Hope would retain its previous production guidance at this time.

He said the company remained a low-cost thermal coal producer and was competitively positioned.

Shares in New Hope are down 2c to $3.53 this morning.

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