REPORT: BHP Billiton to Cut 700 Jobs at Coal Mines in Australia
Mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd. (ASX:BHP) (NYSE:BHP) announced on Tuesday it plans to cut roughly 700 jobs from its metallurgical coal business in central Queensland due to high operating costs and declining prices.
BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, a joint venture between BHP and Mitsubishi Corp., said it plans to cut the jobs from its Bowen Basin coal mines in Australia. The job cuts will account for about seven percent of the joint venture’s total workforce.
"The coal industry continues to face challenging market conditions and had to act to ensure the long-term viability of the business," the BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) said in a statement.
Coking coal prices have been trading at their lowest levels in seven years as supply for the commodity outpaces demand. Prices for the black gold have fallen 20 percent this year alone.
"When we started looking at cost restructuring we were around $150 a ton, coming down from $200, and now we are down around $110," said Dean Dalla Valle, president of BHP’s coal division.
"And we've had a pretty sticky forex rate in this country. This all follows a period of pretty inflationary cost growth over the past four or five years."
BHP and other Australian miners have invested billions of dollars over the past decade in new projects as prices for iron ore and coal have been on the rise. The drop in price and slowdown in demand, however, has caused many companies to cut jobs and cancel expansion plans.
"A slowdown in China's manufacturing marks low demand from an economy which Australia relies on heavily for commodity exports," a spokesperson from CMC Markets said.
Like other Australian mining companies, BHP is continuously reviewing its coal division, looking for additional ways to cut costs as it attempts to push every operation to function independently.
"It comes back to the world sets our price but Australia sets our costs so we've just got to make sure we are matching them up," said Dalla Valle.
Despite the 700 job cuts, BHP Billiton is sticking to its guidance of increasing metallurgical coal output by four percent to a record 47 million tons in 2015.
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.