Xstrata’s coal mines produced 95.2 million tonnes last year, with thermal coal up 13% and semi-soft coking coal up 17%.
Total thermal coal volumes rose to 82.6Mt buoyed by the inclusion of 10.5Mt from the Colombian Prodeco operations, acquired in March, combined with increased volumes at the highly productive Newlands Northern underground mine in Queensland.
The boost in semi-soft coking coal production was attributed to New South Wales operations switching from thermal production to higher-priced semi-soft production.
Production of Australian coking coal decreased by 7%, as the suspension of longwall operations at Oaky No 1 for the first half of 2009 in response to weak market conditions and industrial action at Tahmoor were only partly offset by increased productivity at Oaky North.
The construction of the Goedgevonden open pit thermal coal mine in South Africa was successfully completed during the year and is ramping up to full production of 7Mtpa in 2011.
Despite additional tonnes from Goedgevonden, production from the South African operations fell by 8%, due to the planned shutdown of Impunzi Underground and reduced demand for unwashed coal in the domestic and export Atlantic market.
Lower demand for export thermal coal in the Atlantic coal market also constrained Colombian production.
During 2009, construction began on the $1 billion development of Mangoola open cut thermal coal mine in Australia to produce up to 10.5 million run-of-mine tonnes of thermal coal per year, with an expected mine life of 18 years.
Xstrata has also given the go-ahead to the $407 million ATCOM East thermal coal project in South Africa which will produce around 5.7Mtpa ROM and 3.1Mtpa of saleable thermal coal.
During the year, Xstrata increased its mineral resource estimates at the Wandoan project, Ravensworth West/Cumnock areas, and the Mangoola, Tahmoor and Ravensworth underground projects, all in Australia.