Whitehaven Coal admits it has been a challenging year for the company, posting a full year loss of $82 million.
Blaming weaker coal prices and a strong Aussie dollar for the loss, the miner said despite “tough market conditions” the company managed to double coal sales for the year and is planning to more than double production again over the next three years.
“Whitehaven is a company in transition from being a four million tonne producer to 23 million tonne producer,” Whitehaven chairperson Mark Vaile told shareholders.
For 2014, Whitehaven has set a production target of about 11 million tonnes of coal.
Addressing investors at the company’s AGM, Vaile explained the first phase of development is already completed with the ramping up of its Narrabri underground coal mine which launched production in October 2012.
The next step will be the construction of its Maules Creek mine, which now has both State and Federal approval and is due to deliver first coal in the second half of 2014.
Vaile described the Federal approval process, which took three years, as “glacial”.
“These are both significant value accretive assets for the company and I expect investors will increasingly recognise the value proposition that Whitehaven represents as we move through the next significant growth phase,” Vaile said.
Vaile said Maules Creek has faced “constant and costly” opposition from activists, including the now infamous press release hoax which saw Jonathan Moylan charged for temporarily wiping more than $314 million off the value of the company.
He said the company needs to be realistic about operating in a lower coal price environment.
“Whitehaven’s focus will remain on cost reduction, improving efficiency and optimising each of our operations,” Vaile said.