The New South Wales producer yesterday reported lower run of mine and saleable coal production during the June quarter and approval delays and cost overruns at its Maules Creek project.
The company reported quarterly ROM production of 1.471 million tonnes, down 10% on the previous corresponding period.
Saleable coal production was 1.39Mt, down 6% on the previous corresponding period.
The company hopes commissioning problems are ironed out and production will be ramped up at its Narrabri mine, which will help it increase saleable production to 10Mt ROM for the 2013 financial year.
NSW government approval for Maules Creek is still pending, despite the March 21 recommendation by the Planning Assessment Commission for the project to go ahead subject to appropriate conditions.
“Whilst the approval has been delayed, there do not appear to be any significant issues to be resolved and the company remains confident of a successful outcome,” Whitehaven said.
“It is likely the approval process will extend into August, pending the outcome of the second PAC.
“In the meantime, management is doing everything possible to ensure that development timelines remain on track once approval is granted, with first coal expected in the first quarter of calendar year 2014.”
Whitehaven expects Maules Creek to ramp up to annual saleable production of 10.5Mt by 2016.
“Following a detailed review of the Maules Creek capital budget, capital expenditure to first coal is now expected to be approximately $766 million, an increase of approximately 6 per cent over previous estimates,” the company said.
“This is primarily a result of the delay in obtaining development approval from the NSW government.”
Whitehaven said the $5.2 billion merger of Whitehaven, Aston and Boardwalk Resources was almost complete, with the integration of people, property and systems having progressed smoothly.
“The key remaining items to be finalised include the merged group future management structure,” Whitehaven said.
“This has been the subject of a detailed review over the last month with recommendations to be considered by the Whitehaven board.
“The three companies are now operating as one and the group remains on track to realise the synergies as outlined … at the time of the merger.
“Key short-term synergies will include reduction in costs from the procurement of tyres, fuel, explosives, above rail services, electricity, banking facilities and other corporate costs.”
Longer-term synergies are expected from extensive coal blending opportunities and integrated rail and port infrastructure synergies once Maules Creek is in operation.
Whitehaven open cut mines (Tarrawonga, Werris Creek, Rocglen and Sunnyside) suffered significant impacts from exceptional wet weather in the March quarter with approximately 400,000 tonnes of lost production.
Recovery from the events affected June quarter production but saleable production from the open cut mines during the period was in line with expectations at an annual rate of 5.1 million tonnes per annum.
The major shortfall was at Werris Creek which was more severely affected by wet weather.
Performance at Werris Creek is improving and production of around 2Mt is expected in FY2013.