The deal indicates Macarthur’s expansion plans are nearer to fruition.
Macarthur managing director and chief executive officer Nicole Hollows confirmed that rival operator Queensland Rail would continue to haul coal from the producer’s 73.3%-owned Coppabella and Moorvale surface mine, but the contract with Pacific National was to meet future growth needs.
“Macarthur Coal has chosen to utilise Pacific National for its expansion projects as the company’s service offering provides flexibility for growth and expansion that meets Macarthur’s long-term project development needs,” Hollows said.
“Macarthur has a long and valued relationship with QR and believes the use of two rail operators will be in the best interests of both current operations and future developments.”
Asciano managing director and chief executive officer Mark Rowsthorn said the contract was a significant step in the strategy of securing market share in Queensland.
“It is particularly satisfying that they have shown such confidence in our abilities as the new operator in that state,” he said.
“In a coal market that continues to be volatile in the short term, Macarthur was looking for a rail operator who delivers on service.”
Pacific National, the dominant Hunter Valley rail operator, started commissioning its diesel-powered coal trains in Queensland in early April.
Later in the month, German engineering conglomerate Siemens delivered the first of 23 AC traction electric locomotives to the Port of Brisbane, with Asciano expecting to deploy the new fleet during the rest of this year and in the first half of 2010.
Macarthur has two expansion plans for its Moorvale operation, including the Moorvale Underground project, which will use two continuous miners to produce an average of 1.13Mtpa of run-of-mine coal.
The underground project has 1Mt of proved reserves and 13.6Mt of probable reserves.
Macarthur has recently received two mining leases for Olive Downs North, which is slated to be a $A20 million satellite pit to the Moorvale operation, using its coal handling and processing plant.
In the first three months of 2009, Macarthur spent $1.9 million on exploration of its Middlemount project in the Bowen Basin, which has open cut coal mining reserves totalling 56.9Mt, consisting of 28.5Mt of proved reserves and 28.4Mt of probable reserves.
Macarthur shares closed up 12c today to $4.68.