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Australia's North Queensland coal exports rise in Oct, shaping up to be record year

Sydney — The North Queensland region in Australia registered a small increase in exports during October which sees it on track for a record year in 2018, data from the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation showed Wednesday.

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A total 12.59 million mt of coal was sent during the month from the metallurgical coal powerhouse part of Australia, which comes via Adani's Abbot Point terminal, the common-user Dalrymple Bay and the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance-owned Hay Point terminal. That is a 6% increase year on year from 11.90 million mt and 2% growth from 12.39 million mt in September, NQBP data showed.

For January-October, the three terminals have shipped 123.18 million mt of coal, which translates to an annualized rate of 147.80 million mt. If they manage similar rates for the last two months of 2018, it will be a record for North Queensland, surpassing the 144.19 million mt seen in 2016 and 134.85 million mt in 2017. The terminals have a combined nameplate capacity of 190 million mt/year.

North Queensland's coal exports have not fallen below 12.50 million mt/year since April when volumes were impacted as the region dealt with the impact of Tropical Cyclone Iris as well as scheduled maintenance.

The office of Australia's chief economist said in the Resources and Energy Quarterly last month that the country's total metallurgical coal exports in 2018 are expected to be 180 million mt, up from 173 million mt in 2017, and are forecast to rise further to 198 million mt in 2019 and 199 million mt in 2020.

The breakdown of exports by metallurgical coal and thermal coal from the three North Queensland terminals is not readily available, but metallurgical coal makes up the bulk of it.

"Several idled mines are expected to restart over the outlook period, including Sojitz's recently acquired Gregory Crinum, Baralaba Coal's Baralaba, and Bounty Mining's Cook operations, all in the Bowen Basin," the chief economist report said.

"The ramp-up of QCoal's newly started Byerwen mine and Stanmore's Isaac Plains East mine, and planned expansions and productivity improvements at Anglo American and BHP's operations are also expected to support production growth over the outlook period," it said, adding that Pembroke Resource's Olive Downs project is targeting first coal just beyond the outlook period in the second half of 2020.

The Queensland Resources Council said Wednesday that Queensland's coal exports have been the most valuable export for the state for 22 months in a row.

"Queensland's coal industry is our economic powerhouse. And its run at the top dates back to December 2016. Every single month since then, coal has recorded the largest increase in value for Queensland commodity exports," QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said.

"The Queensland budget assumed thermal coal prices for this financial year [July 2018-June 2019] to be US$89/mt. The latest thermal coal spot price was US$100/mt. Similarly, the budget assumes a coking coal price of US$161/mt, but the most recent trading value was US$225/mt," the QRC said.

Coal was worth A$34.3 billion ($24.85 billion) to Queensland for the year through to September, it said.

The 85 million mt/year capacity DBCT shipped 6 million mt of coal during October, down 10% year on year from 6.64 million mt and up 3% from 5.85 million mt in September. It is the highest monthly total for the terminal since March while it is running at an annualized rate of 68.67 million mt for the first 10 months of 2018, according to NQBP data.

The neighbouring 55 million mt/year HPCT shipped 4.12 million mt in October, up 40% year on year from 2.95 million mt and down 1% from 4.17 million mt in September. The October result sees it running at 49.49 million mt/year for the year to October, NQBP data showed.

APCT, with its 50 million mt/year nameplate, shipped 2.46 million mt in October, up 7% year on year from 2.30 million mt and 4% from 2.37 million mt a month earlier. It is running at 29.73 million mt/year for January-October, according to the data.

--Nathan Richardson,

--Edited by Irene Tang,