Coal prep plant shines light on BHP's NSW ops

BHP Billiton’s New South Wales coking coal export production is becoming more important to the company as its Illawarra Coal subsidiary recently completed its $160 million West Cliff coal preparation plant raw coal and reliability improvement project.
Coal prep plant shines light on BHP's NSW ops Coal prep plant shines light on BHP's NSW ops Coal prep plant shines light on BHP's NSW ops Coal prep plant shines light on BHP's NSW ops Coal prep plant shines light on BHP's NSW ops

BHP Billiton's West Cliff operation.

Lou Caruana

It is in contrast to the company’s Queensland operations, which this week closed its Norwich Park mine and earlier declared force majeure to its coking coal customers.

The plant will ensure Illawarra Coal can meet customers’ needs by processing 7.5 million tonnes per annum of raw coal to produce premium quality coking coal from its Appin and West Cliff mines, Illawarra Coal president Colin Bloomfield said.

“We are proud of this project which was completed without a single lost time injury being sustained,” he said.

The West Cliff project provided work for up to 300 people during its construction, but ongoing operation of the facility will support the employment of 100 people.

NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Chris Hartcher said the facility would provide an economic stimulus and further local jobs for the region through the company’s operations.

Most of the design, engineering and construction services were supplied from the Illawarra region’s mining services sector.

Almost all the equipment, materials and services were also supplied from Australian companies including more than 1200 tonnes of Australian steel.

Illawarra Coal produces premium quality coking coal for steelmaking and provides employment for 1400 employees and approximately 1000 contractors.

In BHP’s last interim report released in February, it said that its NSW energy operations were also a growing contributor to production and earnings.

The 31% and 20% increases in hard coking coal and weak coking coal prices, respectively, increased its metallurgical coal’s underlying EBIT by $US927 million (net of price linked costs) and underpinned record profitability at Illawarra Coal over the six months to December 2011.

“In contrast, a 15% decline in sales volumes at Queensland Coal reduced underlying EBIT by $216 million while higher costs, that partly reflected our flood recovery efforts, reduced underlying EBIT by a further $481 million,” BHP said.

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