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More than 100 Workers Laid Off at Wilkie Creek Coal Mine

More than 100 workers have been laid off from a Western Downs coal mine after its owner went into administration. New Wilkie Energy, which operates the Wilkie Creek mine near Dalby, about 200 kilometres west of Brisbane, was placed into administration on December 27. Administrator BRI Ferrier has been appointed to assess the business’s position.

New Wilkie Energy, a private company, acquired the mine site in July 2021 from mining giant Peabody Energy. The mine had been mothballed since 2014.

Western Downs Regional Council mayor Paul McVeigh said 100 workers from the mine site had been laid off just prior to Christmas. He said news of the company going into administration was very disappointing.

“We were excited about the news when Wilkie Creek was re-opening and were excited about the 230 jobs coming into the region,” he said.

New Wilkie Energy, which exported its first shipment of coal from the mine last year, had also planned to build a 400-megawatt solar farm and 200-megawatt wind farm at the site. In October, the company sent 82,500 tonnes of coal from the Port of Brisbane to China.

Coal costs

Energy analyst Tim Buckley from public interest think tank Climate Energy Finance said as New Wilkie Energy was a private company, the reasons for it entering administration were not clear. But he said it was likely significant costs for mining operations played a role in the company’s demise.

While coal prices remain at historical highs, predicted falls this year could signal problems for other smaller mining operations, he said. Mr Buckley said costs were high at a time of falling prices. The price for thermal coal is $US128 a tonne and the long-term average is $US75.

“If I had to predict, the price is likely to drop another 20 to 50 per cent over the next two, three years as it moves back to long-term averages,” he said.

“There will be demand for coal in the next 10, 20 years, even potentially 30 years,” he said.

“But the trajectory is for continuing decline — the sciences say we have to see demand reduce over time.”