Coal ships off Mackay.
Coal ships off Mackay. Tony Martin

Mine operator's eye on industry future

EXCLUSIVE: A Bowen Basin mine operator is preparing itself for the "inevitable" downturn of the resurgent industry even as it continues to break its own throughput records.

Operators of Foxleigh Mine, Realm Resources, have been at the helm of the open cut coal mine which was previously owned by Anglo American, for two years.

Realm Resources managing director Michael Rosengren said the mine had been going from strength to strength, with an expected output of about 3 million tonnes of low volatility PCI coal this year. This is up on the 2.8 million tonnes last year, when output was affected by Cyclone Debbie.

"We'll do very good production this year and are now looking at whether we increase production in future years, with the exploration work that we are doing, or extend the life of the mine further as we get more information," he said.

"The ship queue at the port [Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal] at the moment is over 35, so that's a bit of a concern going in to the end of the year that that might throttle coal sales as well."

The life of the mine is estimated to be 13 years.

"The mining industry is defined by a boom and bust cycle, supply and demand that sits in place," Mr Rosengren said.

"We are getting good prices for coal at the moment and we are making decision on how we invest that so that when the drop comes, and it will come, be it this year or next... we are saying how do we set the mine up so that when the inevitable downturn happens we are in a good position to fight through that and come out the other side."

The latest report by KPMG found the average price of low and ultra-low PCI coal will be USD$144.4 per tonne, with the price expected to fall to USD$118.3 per tonne in 2019.

The Daily Mercury previously reported the wait times at Dalrymple Bay are still stretching out to three weeks.