Rio Tinto lowering headcount at Hail Creek met coal mine

Rio Tinto is cutting jobs at its Hail Creek metallurgical coal mine in Australia’s Queensland as it looks to “improve productivity and reduce costs”.

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“Like others in the Australian coal mining industry, Rio Tinto is facing the challenge of increasing costs and dropping coal prices,” a spokesman for the miner told Steel First.

“Regrettably, this means some roles at Hail Creek mine are no longer required, as part of changes to ensure the mine is sustainable in challenging conditions,” he said.

Rio declined to specify how many jobs will be cut, but said the consultation processes are in progress and that they would provide support for those affected.

This marked the latest round of job cuts seen in Australia’s met coal industry.

The BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance cut 230 jobs at its Saraji mine in February, while Anglo American cut 200 contractor jobs at its Dawson mine in November last year.

The quarterly coking coal benchmark fell to $120 per tonne fob Australia for the April-June period, the lowest level seen since 2008.

Steel First’s Premium Hard Coking Coal Index was at $116.05 per tonne fob Australia on April 30, down from an average of about $143 per tonne fob in November when the index was launched.

Rio Tinto produced 1.19 million tonnes of hard coking coal from Hail Creek during the first quarter of this year, down from 1.54 million tonnes in the December 2013 quarter and 1.22 million tonnes in the March 2013 quarter.

It lowered its guidance for its hard coking coal output this year to 8.2 million tonnes from 8.5 million tonnes previously.