The recent quarterly results were the first to include export tonnes from the Maules Creek mine which is expected to be officially declared commercial in early July.
The first quarter of Maules Creek’s production hit 1.12Mt ROM and saleable output of 0.99Mt with 0.95Mt of thermal coal delivered into its contract with commodities trader Noble Group.
While construction winds down, the remaining 7% includes work at the coal preparation plant (commissioning to end sometime in May) and final adjustments are being made to the site’s rail spur and loop.
The workforce has grown to 215 including 15% of an indigenous background – higher than the 10% targeted.
The mine’s finished first stage capacity will be 6.5 million tonnes per annum ROM while a bolstered fleet from around December is expected to expand capacity to 8.5Mtpa ROM by early next year.
Narrabri to exceed 7Mtpa
The Narrabri longwall mine continues to impress with Whitehaven noting that its gate and main road development of 4545m for the March quarter placed it in the top five of Australia’s longwall mines in this regard.
While the mine’s designed capacity was 6Mtpa ROM Whitehaven is forecasting it to produce between 7-7.2Mt for the financial year due to strong performance.
The mine produced 2.18Mt in the March quarter alone – a speed rate beyond 8Mtpa for the three months – while Narrabri’s coal sales hit 1.64Mt.
Year to date the mine has hit 5.03Mt ROM – 27% higher year-on-year – and while its year to date sales of 4.85Mt are up 26% YOY.
The underway panel is due to finish in August with a six-week longwall changeout expected afterwards.
Lower costs were realised at the Gunnedah region miner’s Tarrawonga open cut due to a change in work roster. ROM production ended up 43% year on year to 0.53Mt while saleable output fell 7% year on year to 0.47Mt.
Roster changes also hit the Rocglen mine with ROM output falling 14% to 0.21Mt in the recent quarter while saleable production was 31% higher year on year to 0.24Mt.
The Werris Creek open cut lifted ROM output by 28% year on year to 0.66Mt and saleable output by 10% year on year to 0.66Mt as well.
Whitehaven clocked up an average price of $US87.15 per tonne for its metallurgical coal in the March quarter and a price of $65.82/t for its thermal coal.
It expects Newcastle-exported thermal coal prices to remain around current levels for the rest of this year while it said met coal prices were unlikely to improve until 2016.