Rio Tinto Coal Australia’s Blair Athol mine, near Clermont in Central Queensland, will finish mining operations this year after almost 30 years of production. Clermont Region General Manager of Operations Dawid Pretorius said the mine has been progressively scaling back production in a transition toward closure since 2010. “After close to three decades, Blair Athol’s coal seams are largely mined out and the time has come to finish production,” he said.

                “Coal mining has a long and proud history at Blair Athol, dating back to the late 1800s when coal was first discovered in this area. At its peak, the Blair Athol mine was Australia’s largest exporter of thermal coal, blessed with uniquely thick coal seams.

                “Since 2005, Rio Tinto had planned to close the mine at the end of this year and consulted with its community consultative committee and workforce,” Pretorious said. “However, as coal prices rose in recent times we looked to extend the life of the mine by mining a poorer quality coal and harder to reach seam for a few more years. Unfortunately, the recent significant drop in thermal coal prices, and other factors such as rising costs and the foreign exchange rate mean this is no longer a feasible option and we will keep to the original plan to finish production in 2012.

                “The final day of production at Blair Athol will depend on the progress of mining operations over coming months, but we expect it will be before December,” said Pretorious. “We have been planning for the eventual closure of Blair Athol for many years, as we know it will be a significant adjustment for our workers, their families and the local community. Rio Tinto is committed to providing support for employees and will continue to contribute to the strength of the local community through its nearby Clermont mine and ongoing investment in a wide range of partnerships.”