BHP takes a hit on thermal coal but barely recognises China issues

Mining giant BHP will slash up to $US1.25 billion ($A1.6 billion) from the value of its NSW energy coal division as prices across all coal dropped by as much as 30 per cent in the December quarter.

Jan 20, 2021, updated Jan 20, 2021
BHP's Hay Point coal terminal

BHP's Hay Point coal terminal

Iron ore prices were a stand out for the company, jumping by 33 per cent for the half year which did not include the bumper prices the commodity has received recently.

But China, which has imposed a ban on coal imports from Australia and has also been forced to pay record prices for iron ore, was barely mentioned except for the inclusion that BHP was monitoring and potential impacts on volumes from the “restrictions”.

However, it is understood the company is still facing extensive delays getting shipments into China and it is assessing scenarios to deal with the issue if it continues.

Production at its Queensland coal division was down 13 per cent compared with the same period in 2019,  but the company blamed weather-related issues and unplanned maintenance at the South Walker Creek mine.

It now believes its production from Queensland coal will be at the lower end of its guidance of between 71 million tonnes and 77 million tonnes.

Its prices across metallurgical coal grades were down 31 per cent for the half-year and 20 per cent for the December quarter.

The writedowns in NSW were the result of market conditions for thermal coal, the strengthening Australian dollar, changes to its mining plan and the likelihood of recovering tax losses.

Chief executive Mike Henry said it was a strong safety and operational performance which included record production at its Western Australia iron ore division. It has increased its guidance for 2021 to between 245 million tonnes and 255 million tonnes

“Our major development projects in iron ore, petroleum and potash are progressing well,” Henry said.

“We continue to build on our strong foundations, increasing future-facing options in copper and nickel through exploration, partnerships and acquisitions.

“We are well-positioned to sustainably grow shareholder and social value as the global economy recovers from the pandemic.”

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