Record coal price
WHERE to now? Coal is back in boom territory
Wednesday 16 November 2016
The Queensland Resources Council says the highest Australian dollar price ever for Queensland metallurgical coal has been settled this week at around $US308 a tonne.
“The recovery in coal prices is something quite remarkable in anyone’s language,” CEO of the Queensland Resources Council Michael Roche said.
“It just shows how sensitive the coking coal price is to supply and demand shocks.
“We saw the same thing happen in 2011 when flooding in Queensland cut supply and pushed coal prices up above $US300 a tonne, and now with Chinese government legislation and seasonal flooding in China cutting their supply, we have a record price in Aussie dollars of $US308 this week.”
“I think the price for metallurgical coal will settle back down to a more realistic number, but at a number well north of where it was, but we are all guessing, no one has got it right.”
Around 60% of seaborne metallurgical coal trade is from Australia, with most of that coming from Central Queensland. So when the supply balance shifts, demand for Queensland coal shifts as well.
While coal prices have been higher in the past, it’s been at a time when the Australian dollar was also higher, which lowers the returns to Australian miners.
Historically the coal price (which is listed in $US) and the value of the Australian dollar have moved together, but this time around the Australian dollar hasn't moved much because no one is sure about the fundamentals causing the coal price rises.
That’s because the meteoric price rise is mainly due to a Chinese political decision to reduce coal output at home, and with Chinese politics so difficult to interpret, no one is quite sure how long it will last.
Whatever the case, the unforeseen sweet spot has thrown budgets and planning into turmoil across Queensland, with reports now that some of the biggest mines in the Bowen Basin have gone from breaking even, to making more profit than they did it at the height of the last boom.
However, with the lessons of the last six years fresh in everyone’s memory, no one is certain how to react, and the mining support sector is still under huge stress and financial pressure.
However, the most likely outcome locally is that the big miners will redouble their already enormous effort to increase production without increasing costs, meaning production records will fall again this financial year with the added benefit of more profits per tonne than anyone could have dreamt of just three months ago.
However this is some evidence that miners are looking for people on a longer term basis, with a report by recruitment business DFP Resources this week indicating vacancies in the resources sector generally have improved 8.3% in October and 29.3% in the last 12 months.
“Permanent vacancies increased this month by 10.6%, while temporary and contract roles increased 5.4%,” they said in their monthly report.
“The Queensland market performed the strongest with vacancies growing 14.2% and Western Australia also improved further, rising another 5.5%.
“Coal and Mineral Mining, Oil and Gas, and Metal Ore Mining all experienced growth with the former showing a significant increase of 24.8% in demand.
“The market for Engineering Professionals has shown signs of a resurgence with its strongest performance on record, a rise of 14.6%”
Whatever the impact on the local economy, the QRC’s Mr Roche says the current prices are good news for Queensland.
“It’s good news for the QLD budget, Treasury were working on a metallurgical coal price being $88 a tonne, and this week it is at $308 a tonne.
“It’s a windfall gain for the budget.”