Wandoan looking more doubtful

XSTRATA’S proposed $6 billion Wandoan coal project slated for Queensland’s Surat Basin looks set to be canned, with Glencore’s chief executive saying a merged Xstrata-Glencore will avoid greenfields projects.
Wandoan looking more doubtful Wandoan looking more doubtful Wandoan looking more doubtful Wandoan looking more doubtful Wandoan looking more doubtful

Wandoan project, image courtesy of Xstrata Coal.

Lou Caruana

Glencore Chief executive Ivan Glasenberg told investors at an earnings presentation that the company would prefer brownfields projects because they were less risky.

''We are afraid of greenfields,'' he said.

''And it's been proven, we were correct, greenfields are risky. Greenfields do have capital overruns.

Greenfields do have delays which kill the NPV (net present value) on those projects.''

The $50 billion Xstrata-Glencore merger is expected to go through next month with the approval of Chinese regulatory authorities.

Glasenberg said the mining industry as a whole was questioning the returns from new projects in light of lower commodity prices and over-supply.

“Hopefully, there is this paradigm shift in the mining industry and people are stopping projects for a while,” he said.

“While they assess what demand is doing they're not going to over-supply. And, hopefully, the markets will start picking up in the future.

''Then we may have utilised all our brownfields and pushed them to the maximum. We may have to look at a greenfield and then we will assess it very, very carefully.''

The company’s plans for Wandoan will have a big impact on the future of the growing Surat Basin.

Outogoing Xstrata global chief executive Mick Davis said in August the proposed 60 million tonne per annum Wandoan thermal coal mine remained ''a very, very important component of Xstrata's growth potential going forward but it is not part of the current phase of expansion”

An Xstrata spokesman told ILN:“Following the Queensland land court's recommendation to award a mining lease for the project, we are working towards the final grant of this lease by the Queensland government.

“We anticipate this in early 2013.”

It could be disastrous for other coal developments in the Surat Basin, being proposed by MetroCoal and Stanmore Coal, if Xstrata decided to shelve the Wandoan project, which was expected to contribute to the investment in infrastructure and services to the region.

Wandoan, which would employ about 1400 people during the construction phase, would also be a significant employer of operational staff.