Project pipeline before the RSPT

IN a sign of what may be at stake with the Rudd government’s resources super-profits tax, ABARE estimates there are more than $10 billion of advanced coal mine and coal infrastructure projects in Australia.
Project pipeline before the RSPT Project pipeline before the RSPT Project pipeline before the RSPT Project pipeline before the RSPT Project pipeline before the RSPT

The first Clermont coal leaves the stacker/reclaimer. Image courtesy of RTCA.

Blair Price

Rio Tinto’s $US1.3 billion ($A1.534 billion) Clermont open cut mine in Queensland was defined as an advanced project by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, though the new mine delivered its first coal via a 13.3km conveyor to the nearby Blair Athol mine in early May.

Clermont will replace the output of Blair Athol, due for closure in 2016, but will use its stockpile and load-out facilities to rail the coal to the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal.

The mine is expected to hit full capacity of 12.2 million tonnes per annum of high-quality thermal coal in 2013.

Rio’s $US991 million Kestrel mine extension project aims to lift capacity from the Queensland longwall mine by 1.7Mtpa to 5.7Mtpa in 2012, extend the mine life to 2031, and increase the longwall face width to 375m.

Xstrata’s $1 billion Mangoola (Anvill Hill) open cut project in New South Wales is targeting 9Mtpa of thermal coal in 2012.

Yancoal Australia subsidiary Felix Resources’ $405 million Moolarben project in the Western NSW coalfield remains under construction with first open cut coal expected in the next few months.

Full ramp-up under stage one development will see Moolarben reach up to 13Mtpa of product coal for export and domestic markets, with 8.8Mt from open cut mining and 4-4.2Mt from longwall mining.

Last year Moolarben was anticipated to produce 6Mt of thermal coal in 2010.

ABARE said nine other advanced coal mine developments in Queensland and NSW would raise coal output capacity by 22Mtpa over the next three to four years, at a combined capital cost of $1.8 billion.

More output needs more coal chain investment, with Australia’s commodities forecaster noting there were five coal terminal expansions and six rail expansions either committed or under construction by the end of April.

Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group’s $1.1 billion Kooragang Island terminal officially opened just over two weeks ago, providing 30Mtpa of throughput capacity. The industry consortium plans to double this capacity and already has government approval to lift it to 66Mtpa.

In February the other Newcastle port operator, Port Waratah Coal Services, unveiled plans to expand its terminal on Kooragang Island by 20Mtpa to 133Mtpa by 2012 at a cost of $670 million.

Separate expansion work at the terminal will lift capacity by 11Mtpa for $458 million.

Over to Queensland, the $818 million Abbot Point Coal Terminal expansion to 50Mtpa is due next year.

ABARE noted the $1.1 billion Goonyella to Abbot Point rail project was the largest rail project committed.

Estimated to increase capacity of Queensland Rail’s coal chain by 50Mtpa, the project links the Goonyella rail line to the Newlands rail system.

Crunching the numbers, ABARE said coal chain projects accounted for 45% of capital expenditure committed in the coal industry.

Pooling in less advanced projects, there were 46 black coal projects in Queensland and 24 in NSW at a capex estimate of $43.62 billion.

With coal demand fully recovered from the harsh March quarter of 2009, there are 13 new coal projects on ABARE’s watchlist.

Among them are Xstrata’s Ravensworth North expansion, and its plans to develop the longwall and open cut Sarum project in the northern Bowen Basin.

Peabody’s major Wilkie Creek expansion was submitted for federal government approval in March, as was Gloucester Coal’s Duralie extension project.

Macarthur Coal is exploring its Vermont East and Wilunga tenements to support a prefeasibility study for a mine capable of 4Mtpa of raw coal production.

Four private companies also contributed new projects.

Aston Resources’ Maules Creek was included, along with Drake Coal’s namesake project, Jellinbah Resources’ Jellinbah East development and QCoal’s Byerwen project.

The level of project expenditure and completion appears less secure since the Rudd government unveiled its RSPT, with mining stocks losing billions from widespread selling on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Critics warn of capital flight, while Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has publicly welcomed the new Australian mining tax, saying it gives Canada a competitive advantage for mining investment.

Fortescue Metals Group shelved two iron ore projects in Western Australia yesterday because of the new tax.

The projects are estimated to be worth about $15 billion and to have created 30,000 jobs.

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