Coal – production drop
for BHP Billiton in
SA this year
 
Cape Town, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 11 February 2009 – BHP Billiton’s South African coal subsidiary – which one of the world’s largest coal exporters – expects to produce 34 million tonnes in 2009 – almost 30% below the 48 million tonnes produced last year.

The drop in BHP’s output follows the sale by the company of its Optima coal mine in a black economic empowerment (BEE) deal.

“The forecast for BHP’s total production in 2009 would be in the region of 34 million tonnes,” vice president for coal operations in South Africa Wilco Uys told Reuters on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba here.

Uys said BHP Billiton was on track to boost coal production by 2011 as it began to reap the rewards of its US$1.4 billion (R14 billion) investment to upgrade sites.

“It will spend US$450 million (R4.5 billion) on its Klipspruit project, which includes a 16 million tonnes per annum coal processing plant in a 50-50 joint venture with Anglo Coal,” he elaborated, “and it will also spend a further US$975 million (R9.8 billion) on its Douglas Middleburg optimisation project, which will develop new mining areas and feed into a new plant.

Reuters reports that South Africa is expected to export 65 to 68 million tonnes of thermal coal in 2009, 4 million of which is accounted for by black-owned junior miners.

“We still foresee that we would be within our project schedule, and that’s to commission the Klipspruit plant by 1 July this year,” Uys added.