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Money in the bank: Coal companies enter another league as prices surge again


Queensland-based coal companies were predicting the extraordinary price boom to continue in 2023 and have shrugged off the impacts of flooding and the hated hike in royalties.

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The continued high prices for coal meant an even bigger windfall was likely for the Queensland Government.

Coronado, which owns the Curragh mine in central Queensland as well as mines in the US, said its full year group revenue for 2022 had jumped 66 per cent to $US3.5 billion ($A4.98 billion).

It has also returned $US700 million to shareholders during the year and the company said it expected metallurgical coal prices in the current quarter would be higher than the December quarter. Last year, the company had an average realised price for coal of $US265 a tonne ($A377).

In December, the company reported that despite heavy rainfall in central Queensland which had curtailed production, its operating earnings were above $1 billion for the nine months to September.

The huge hike in pricing has elevated coal companies into another league. For instance, Bank of Queensland reported cash earnings before tax for 2022 of $732 million. Aurizon had an operating profit of $456 million and Suncorp had a net profit of $681 million.

“Throughout 2023, Coronado anticipates met coal prices to be remain above historical averages due to the ongoing trade constraints for Russian coal and elevated thermal coal demand,” it said.

“China (is) expected to resume imports of Australian met coal, including Curragh met coal in full year 2023.”

Chief executive Gerry Spindler also anticipated better weather in 2023 and that global inflationary impacts would ease. Met coal prices improved in January with low volatile hard coking coal fetching above $US300 a tonne.

“Coronado anticipates met coal price realisations in the first quarter of 2023 to be higher than the fourth quarter.”

All of that has been achieved after the widely contested hike in coal royalties paid to the State Government. The highest tier of 40 per cent cuts in at $A300 a tonne meaning a continued windfall for the Palaszczuk Government.

In December the Government’s economic update forecast royalties from all commodities as well as land rents would be $13.6 billion in 2022-23, about $5.7 billion more than had been estimated in the May Budget.

Terracom, which owns the Blair Athol thermal coal mine, said this week that it had earned an average $A450 a tonne in the December half. It has also paid out $160 million to shareholders.

Stanmore Resources said January prices for met coal reached $US315 a tonne.

Significantly, the companies reporting now, apart from BHP, have dropped any reference to the hated coal royalty issue.

BHP has killed off any significant future investment in Queensland coal and claimed the impact of the royalties would flow through to small business in coal fields.




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