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Japanese oil giant Idemitsu has announced the transfer its entire 85 per cent interest in the Ensham coal mine in central Queensland.

The significant stake was purchased by three different companies in a deal that cost $US240 million ($340 million).

Sungela, a majority-owned subsidiary of South Africa-based energy company Thungela, has bitten off the lion’s share of the mine at 75 per cent controlling interest, with Swiss investment group Audley Energy and Australian Mayfair Corporations Group each earning a 12.5 per cent stake.

Thungela has also announced it will fund a portion of its co-investors’ equity contributions.

The Ensham coal mine is an underground operation that produced approximately 3.2 million tonnes of high-quality thermal coal in 2022. It has a current 16-year life estimate and is permitted through to 2028, when an operating licence renewal is required.

Ensham is currently an asset of the Ensham joint venture (JV), 85 per cent of which was owned by Idemitsu, with the remaining 15 per cent owned by LX International.

The JV promises to keep the mine open during the transition.

Idemitsu will also receive a royalty payment based on the price and volume of the coal to be sold from Ensham in 2023 and 2024.

The new acquisition allows Thungela to diversify its interests away from South Africa, where issues with national infrastructure have been hampering mining operations.

News of Idemitsu transferring its stake in the Queensland mine comes little more than a week after the Japanese giant, a long-time investor in Australian resources, spoke out against the New South Wales Government’s controversial coal reservation plan, which requires the state’s coal companies to reserve 10 per cent of their output exclusively for domestic use.

“This will result in a substantial financial loss as we would be forced to purchase lower-quality coal from other producers or traders to supply to the power stations. This makes no sense,” Idemitsu Australian chief executive officer Steve Kovac said.

“The NSW Government’s interference in the coal market is already creating inequity and unfair treatment between coal producers who deal directly with international coal customers and coal traders, who trade coal on the open market.

“The scheme poses a significant long-term threat to the NSW economy.”