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Whitehaven Coal
Image: Whitehaven Coal

Whitehaven Coal has made the best of a bad situation, achieving record first-half earnings despite lower production following the scheduled Narrabri mine longwall move.

The company produced 6.7 million tonnes of coal for the first half of the 2022 financial year, 13 per cent less than the prior corresponding period (pcp).

This translated to 18 per cent fewer coal sales over the same period and 6 per cent less coal stocks to end 2021.

Whitehaven managing director and chief executive officer Paul Flynn said the company had performed well in difficult circumstances.

“The first half operationally was not without its challenges, with COVID impacts in recent months leading to elevated absenteeism which we had been able to avoid prior to Omicron,” Flynn said,

“As previously reported, significant rainfall in Q2 disrupted operational rhythm initially, but also resulted in flooding that temporarily restricted access to the mines for two weeks.

“However, even with these recent disruptions at our operations and across the coal supply chain, we have posted record half-year earnings for the first half to December.”

According to Global Coal, the Newcastle Coal Index saw a record monthly high of $US222 per tonne (/t) of coal in October, while the average price of coal for the half was $176/t.

This allowed Whitehaven to achieve record first-half earnings (before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of $632.6 million.

Reflecting some tough circumstances during the previous financial year, this represented an increase of 1601 per cent compared to the pcp. At the same time, company revenue increased 106 per cent.

The Narrabri longwall move from panel 109 to 110 was completed in December, following extended delays due to labour shortages.

“The step around from panel 110A to panel 110B is scheduled to commence in May 2022 and be completed in late June 2022,” the company stated in January.