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Coal sales at Australia’s Whitehaven fall in Jan-Mar

Australian coal miner Whitehaven reported higher production but lower sales in January-March, with the firm increasing its percentage of high-grade thermal coal sales from the previous quarter.

Saleable coal volumes rose by 8pc on the year to 3.9mn t but managed coal sales fell by 7pc to 3.8mn t compared to a year earlier. Sales were 83pc high-grade thermal, higher than 72pc in October-December and 68pc a year earlier.

Whitehaven said run-of-mine production at Narrabri was below expectations because of the current panel’s geological challenges, leading to reliability and maintenance problems with equipment.

Whitehaven’s overall sales guidance for the 2023-24 fiscal year remains unchanged at 16mn-17.5mn t for 2023-24 with a unit cost guidance, excluding royalties, of A$103-113/t ($66-$72/t) which the firm said is tracking at the top end. This is because of lower output from Narrabri, which is tracking below its output guidance of 5.1mn-5.7mn t for the fiscal year to 30 June.

Whitehaven finalised takeovers of Australian-Japanese joint venture BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s (BMA) 12mn t/yr Blackwater and 4mn t/yr Daunia coking and thermal coal mine in Queensland on 2 April, with initial sales and production data to be reported in its April-June production report.

The two mines are anticipated to deliver 4.5mn-5mn t run-of-mine output in April-June, with Whitehaven’s revenue breakdown to be 70pc metallurgical and 30pc thermal on an annual basis post-acquisition as it seeks to pivot toward coking coal.

Blackwater and Daunia contributed 10.11mn t and 4mn t respectively to BMA’s total output in 2023. Whitehaven plans to sell down a 20pc stake in Blackwater to global steel producers, with a process presently underway.

Whitehaven views the high calorific value (CV) thermal coal market as well supported in its key Asian markets, and said tightening of sanctions on Russian exporters is containing global supply.

India’s continuing growth is driving demand and underpinning price sentiment, Whitehaven said, despite a softening in metallurgical coal prices during the quarter .

The Argus high-grade 6,000 kcal/kg NAR price averaged $126.74/t fob Newcastle and the 5,500 kcal/kg NAR coal price $93.85/t during January-March, compared with $134.23/t and $96.80/t respectively for October-December.

By Tom Major

Whitehaven quarterly results
Jan-Mar ’24Oct-Dec ’23Jan-Mar ’23
Volumes (mn t)
Managed coal production3.94.23.6
Managed coal sales3.84.74.1
Managed coal stocks at period end11.51.5
Coal sales mix (%)
High-grade thermal coal837268
Other thermal coal81926
Metallurgical coal996
Prices achieved ($/t)136142280
Thermal coal136142280
Metallurgical coal213166234
Source: Whitehaven

Australian coal price comparisons ($/t)

Source: Argus Media