Isaac Plains re-opening reflects Qld coal's resilience: Palaszczuk

THE re-opening of Central Queensland’s Isaac Plains Mine yesterday underlines the solid long-term prospects for the Queensland coal sector, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
Isaac Plains re-opening reflects Qld coal's resilience:  Palaszczuk Isaac Plains re-opening reflects Qld coal's resilience:  Palaszczuk Isaac Plains re-opening reflects Qld coal's resilience:  Palaszczuk Isaac Plains re-opening reflects Qld coal's resilience:  Palaszczuk Isaac Plains re-opening reflects Qld coal's resilience:  Palaszczuk

Qld Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. (Source: Annastacia Palaszczuk)

Lou Caruana

The mining sector was doing it tough, but demand remained strong for Queensland’s resources and expertise, she said.

“As the re-opening of Isaac Plains here today in Central Queensland shows, investors still have confidence in Queensland and our resources,” she said.

“We have new faces, like Stanmore Coal, and new investors who are calling the bottom of the market, stepping up and creating jobs, like the 150 jobs here at Isaac Plains.

“As well, we have major players like QGC and Rio Tinto investing billions in gas and bauxite, commodities where markets are holding better.”

Stanmore Coal has defied the downturn in the coal sector to become Australia’s newest coking coal producer. Since taking formal ownership of the mothballed mine for $1 in November 2015, Stanmore has re-started operations and produced first coal in April 2016, creating more than 150 direct jobs.

The mine will produce 1.1 million tonnes per annum of coking coal for export to Asian steel mills, generating yearly royalties of more than $7 million to the State Government. With expansion plans, royalty payments from the mine are expected to grow in coming years.

As part of the acquisition, Stanmore also took ownership of more than $350 million of operating assets including a dragline, coal handling plant and train loading facilities that will support both the Isaac Plains mine and the company’s neighbouring Isaac Plains East deposit.

The mine life has recently been extended from three to more than ten years, with upgrades to JORC compliant coal Resources (76.9 million tonnes) and Reserves (15.7Mt) at Isaac Plains and Isaac Plains East.

Managing director Nick Jorss said: “We have gone against the tide in the coal sector to create value for our investors and the central Queensland community.

“We believe we’ve picked the right point in the cycle to shift from explorer to exporter with operating costs reduced by 35%.

“Our board and management have more than 200 years of combined coal industry experience, and we have both the capital and the long-term confidence in the sector to seize the opportunity.

“We are proud to be the newest producer in one of the world’s premier coal basins, and only six months after completing the acquisition of Isaac Plains we are shipping our first exports to some of the leading steel mills in Asia.

“Demand for steel in almost every aspect of modern life gives us the long-term confidence in the coking coal market to invest and develop Isaac Plains.”

The Isaac Plains mine is located outside Moranbah, and its coal production will be transported on the Goonyella Rail Line approximately 172kms to Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal for export.

Stanmore Coal acquired the Isaac Plains East deposit from Peabody in July 2015 and Isaac Plains mine and associated operating assets from Vale and Sumitomo in August 2015. The company also holds numerous exploration and development assets located in the Surat and Bowen basins with more than 1.3 billion tonnes of JORC Resources within the portfolio.

Queensland Resources Council CEO Michael Roche said the restart of the mine was a great shot in the arm for an industry that had been hit by decade-low commodity prices.

“The official opening is big news for the Bowen Basin in what have been gloomier times for the once booming sector,” Roche said.

“Since acquiring the mine in August last year, Stanmore has created more than 150 direct jobs for the community and will inject $7 million annually into the state's royalty revenues.”

Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said the government was aware of sustained lower prices, particularly in coal, and the flow-on effects for regional communities.

“The bright side of the coal market is that the modern world needs steel and it can only be made with coking coal – like the coking coal produced here at Isaac Plains,” he said.

“The hard coking coal price has increased about 20 per cent over the past quarter, on the back of ongoing steel demand,” he said.

“But we also know that we need to nurture the green shoots, with initiatives like our 50% exploration expenditure discount, on top of our ongoing royalties freeze and low payroll tax rates.

“The Coordinator-General’s powers to cut red tape are available to support business, as has happened here at Isaac Plains, with the Carmichael coal mine, rail and port project and at MMG’s Dugald River in the north-west.”

Stanmore Coal’s Isaac Plains East expansion has also been declared a prescribed project.

“This will help Stanmore extend the life of their existing open cut operation to more than 10 years, with further possible expansion to an underground operation,” Dr Lynham said.

“Our government supports the sustainable development of our resources for the jobs and economic development this offers and we will keep working hard to support companies like Stanmore Coal turn their plans into reality.”