Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine has produced 94,000 tonnes of coal so far, with the company hoping to ramp this up to 6 million tonnes by March.
In its December quarterly report, Whitehaven revealed the mine’s construction is 87 per cent complete and that the first nine trains loaded with coal left the site in December.
Maules Creek mine currently employs around 151 people, but this is expected to surge to 450 when the mine reaches full production capacity.
Across its five mines the production of saleable coal was up 9 per cent to 5.7 million tonnes, but fell 17 per cent fall in the December quarter.
Coal sales also rose in the six months to December to a record six million tonnes.
Whitehaven achieved an average price of US$87.56/t from sales of its metallurgical products in the December quarter and expects this to rise to US$88/t in the next quarter.
During the December quarter, the benchmark Newcastle thermal coal index averaged US$63.81/t, a 6.7% decrease from the previous quarter.
The company said it expects demand for thermal coal to grow by 2.1 per cent per year until 2019.
“Thermal coal’s position as the lowest cost source of energy for power generators has limited the negative impact on pricing in recent months,” Whitehaven said.
“Whitehaven expects a stable to gradual increase in the price for its thermal coal qualities over the next year, although the challenging markets make forecasting difficult and prices for low quality thermal coal will likely remain under pressure subject to Chinese demand.”
The company said it does not expect to sell any of its high quality coal to China in the next year.