Whitehaven closes Sunnyside coal mine

Whitehaven Coal has announced that is will suspend all operations at its Sunnyside mine 'indefinitely'.

The announcement came on the same day that Whitehaven received approvals for its Maules Creek coal mine.

In an announcement yesterday, Whitehaven stated that "mining operations have been suspended indefinitely at its Sunnyside mine near Gunnedah, and the site placed on 'care and maintenance' ".

The miner blamed the continuing decline in coal prices.

Fourteen full time employees and 23 contractors were working at the mine, which was scheduled to remain open until the end of next year, and is still approved to operate until September 2015.

All Whitehaven employees will be offered positions at other Whitehaven mines.

While mining has been halted, the environmental management and rehabilitation program will continue to operate.

The .4 million tonnes per annum hole left by Sunnyside's shutdown will be offset by an increase in production from Whitehaven's Werris Creek mine, which will use larger excavators and trucks to boost capacity.

Tony Haggarty, Whitehaven's managing director explained that "while Whitehaven is a relatively low cost producer, we are not immune from the falls in global coal prices.

"While the majority of our operations are performing acceptably in the current climate, in the case of Sunnyside, it has become apparent that at current coal prices production is not viable."

He went on to state that "the Sunnyside mine produces a high ash coal which has become less attractive in the current environment, and the opportunities for blending this product with coal produced at our other sites have also diminished.

"Having said this, we have every intention of recommencing production at Sunnyside if and when the coal market improves to appropriate levels. The decision to suspend operations has not been taken lightly.

While the miner announced this bad news, it also received approvals from the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission for its Maules Creek coal mine.

“We welcome the determination by the Planning Assessment Commission and are committed to working within the stringent conditions that have been placed on the Project,” Haggarty said.

“The Maules Creek Project is one of the best coal development projects in the world with a large reserve of high quality coal, a low stripping ratio of 6.4:1, relatively low capital development costs and very competitive operating costs, estimated to be $62.50 per tonne FOB (excluding royalties).

"Notwithstanding the stringent environmental conditions which have been placed on the project and the difficult coal market at present, Whitehaven will be seeking to bring it into production as soon as possible,” he said.

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