[Ferro-Alloys.com]Australia has brought on 12.3mn t/yr of coking coal production capacity in Queensland this year, with around 15mn t/yr scheduled for 2023 and over 120mn t/yr in the pipeline out until the end of the decade.
Firm but volatile metallurgical coal prices since late 2021 have given firms confidence to push forward mine restarts, new projects and expansions, despite the higher royalty regime in Queensland and rapidly rising project costs. Investors are still willing to fund metallurgical coal projects, particularly for the high-grade projects found in Queensland, as they expect green steelmaking — where coking coal is replaced by other reductants — to be years away.
Some projects have been delayed by flooding caused by above-average rainfall, safety issues and chronic labour shortages following Covid-19 border closures in Australia. But more firms have highlighted a slow and litigious approval process as the main drag on project development timelines.
There are five metallurgical and thermal coal projects in Queensland, representing 35.5mn t/yr of capacity, that have been caught up in an approval review considering their potential to add to climate change. Others are also facing legal challenges to either federal or state approvals, which can take years to pass through the courts.
Other projects are embroiled in an active merger and acquisition market, with Australian firm Aquila looking for buyers for four projects with a combined capacity of around 12mn t/yr. Australian resources firm BHP is also considering options to further reduce its exposure to coal by selling some assets from the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance, including the 10mn t/yr Blackwater South development and 14mn t/yr Red Hill project.
BHP sold its BHP Mitsui Coal assets to Australian firm Stanmore in May, transferring the 15mn t/yr Wards Well and 2.6mn t/yr Belview projects. Stanmore may have lower investment hurdles than BHP when it comes to board approval of new projects, but it also has less access to capital and has expanded rapidly, which could delay project development.
Premium hard coking coal peaked above $660/t fob Australia in mid-March. They have traded between $200/t and $300/t since early August, while it was largely below $200/t from April 2018 to July 2021. Argus last assessed the premium hard low-volatile coking coal price at $259/t fob Australia on 16 December, down from $320.75/t on 8 November.
Argus last assessed the pulverised coal injection (PCI) price at $249.95/t fob Australia on 16 December, down from $570.65/t on 17 March but up from around $70/t in November 2020.argusmedia
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