Western Canadian lines pockets with record earnings

SKYROCKETING metallurgical coal prices across the board boded well for Western Canadian Coal in its first quarter, leaving it with record net income.
Western Canadian lines pockets with record earnings Western Canadian lines pockets with record earnings Western Canadian lines pockets with record earnings Western Canadian lines pockets with record earnings Western Canadian lines pockets with record earnings

Courtesy Western Canadian Coal

Donna Schmidt

In the period ended June 30, WCC’s earned income from mining operations was $C43 million, up significantly from a $4 million loss during the similar period last year. It cited current year coal contracts totalling sales of $130 million for the gain.

Coal volumes might have been down by 7% over the same period last year, to 583,000 tonnes, but the average realised price of $224 per tonne was a 166% jump over the first quarter of last year.

About 27% of its sales, or approximately 159,000t, were sold at last year's coal prices of an average $83/t, and the balance were sold at current year prices of $US300/t for hard coking coal and $248/t for low-vol PCI.

Over the quarter, coal production was also down for WCC versus last year, to the tune of 23%, for a total of 614,000t.

High costs for production were suffered from lower production volumes as well as higher mining contractor costs and increased fuel costs.

“The quarter's lower coal production was consistent with the company's plans to use a higher coal price environment to focus on waste rock removal,” WCC noted.

“Due to lower coal prices and productivity issues in the previous year, the company did not remove the required amount of waste rock.”

The financials and coal production levels might not have reflected it, but WCC president John Hogg said he was “pleased” with the improvements being made to productivity at the company’s mines.

“We have increased productivity at the Wolverine operation, while Brule continues to meet all expectations at its higher operating rates,” Hogg said.

“Once past this phase of waste rock removal at Wolverine, we'll see coal production increase and we are confident that we will meet our production and cost goals for the year."

He also said that the coming quarter was expected to be a strong one, as WCC is in a position to fully benefit from current high coal prices for all of its production. It also feels that its clean coal ratio will go up versus waste being removed, a change that will lower costs.

The view ahead is strong, officials for the company said. Its hard coking coal from Wolverine as well as its ULV-PCI coals from Burnt River have been sold internationally, and it has concluded 100% of 2008’s planned output from Wolverine and Brule as part of long-term supply agreements with “top tier” steel mills.

For coal year 2008 (the company’s fiscal 2009 year), it anticipates it will see about 1.9 million tonnes of output from its Perry Creek mine, 1.7Mt of which will be marketed as Wolverine hard coking coal while the remainder will be marketed as Wolverine mid-vol PCI.

WCC anticipates it will realise 1.3Mt of Burnt River ULV-PCI production from the Brule complex.

The company also plans to recommence mining at its Willow Creek metallurgical coal mine at the start of this year’s fourth calendar quarter, ramping up over time to 60,000t per month of ULV-PCI (a total of 285,000t in fiscal 2009).