Signal Peak Begins Production in the U.S.

Developers of a reactivated mine in south-central Montana started shipping coal during early September to Midwestern power plants along a new 35-mile rail line, according to the Associated Press. The Signal Peak Mine south of Roundup has undergone a $400 million expansion over the past year under the ownership of two Ohio companies, Boich Group and FirstEnergy. The companies brought in industry veteran John DeMichiei to transform the shuttered Bull Mountain mine.

On September 3, 2009, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer joined mining executives and Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad chief executive Matt Rose to dedicate a rail station that connects to the new rail line at Broadview. The station was named after Walter Breuning of Great Falls, the world’s oldest man who turned 113 and for five decades worked for BNSF’s predecessor, Great Northern Railway.

According to the mine’s developers, Signal Peak represents a long-term investment that already has a guaranteed customer in four power plants operated by FirstEnergy. The longwall equipment now being installed at the mine will increase its output to 12 to 15 million tons annually within the next 12 to 18 months, said Wayne Boich, Jr., of Boich Group.

BHP Billiton Acts To Protect Floodplains

BHP Billiton recently announced new initiatives for the Caroona coal project to ensure protection of the prime agricultural land on the floodplain and deep alluvial irrigation aquifers in the Liverpool Plains from long wall and open cut mining.

“BHP Billiton and the NSW Government are committed to ensuring the protection of key agricultural land and the region’s water supply, through an amendment to the existing Exploration Licence 6505 that governs the Caroona Coal Project,” said Jimmy Wilson, president-energy coal, BHP Billiton.

In line with its overriding commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainable development, BHP Billiton undertook a review of its exploration and development plans and provided the Minister with recommendations to help address community concerns.

The NSW Government announced amendments to the Special Conditions of BHP Billiton’s Exploration License, preventing BHP Billiton from applying for a mining lease that includes longwall mining underneath the deep alluvial irrigation aquifers and the flood plain; and open-cut mining on the floodplain.

“BHP Billiton has made this public commitment previously, and now it is written in stone–no mining lease application can consider longwall mining under the deep alluvial aquifers or the floodplains,” Wilson said.

BHP Billiton also announced:

“We know we will be judged by what we do, not by what we say and we are committed to fulfilling our obligations in relation to the protection of the environment through our activities. We have always said that we would listen to and work with the community, and these announcement clearly shows that we are prepared to take appropriate action to address genuine concerns,” Wilson said. “This strikes a balance between protecting the valuable agricultural land and the potential of thousands of jobs that mining could bring to the region.”

Peabody Energy Establishes Asian Coal Trading Hub in Singapore

During mid-September, Peabody Energy opened an office in Singapore that will serve as the new hub for Peabody COALTRADE International activities in Southeast Asia, further expanding the company’s access to high-growth seaborne coal markets. “Singapore provides a central location to continue growing our leading coal trading and brokerage platform with prime access to the world’s fastest-growing markets,” said Peabody Chairman and CEO Gregory H. Boyce. “Our presence in Singapore will expand our sourcing and shipping capabilities to China, India, Indonesia and other key Asian markets. The expectation is that these markets will continue to expand at a 5% to 10% compounded annual growth rate, and Peabody is best positioned to capitalize on that growth.”

Pacific seaborne coal demand is very strong as Asian nations lead the world out of recession and drive sustained growth in coal consumption. China is the fastest-growing coal market in the world, and net coal imports are up nearly 150% in 2009. India is the fastest-growing coal importer and expects to be short by as much as 200 million tons of coal per year within five years. Australia and Indonesia are the top global coal exporters in the world and are expected to have the largest increases in exports in coming years. Peabody’s Singapore office will be headed by Phillip V. Smith, who has been named Managing Director of Asian Trading, overseeing international trading activities in Singapore and China.

Coal of Africa Loads First Train at Mooiplats

South African coal miner Coal of Africa Ltd. announced it has successfully completed its first sale and loading of its first train of mid-volatile “lean” coal mined at the Mooiplaats thermal coal project in the Mpumalanga Province. CoAL began trucking the coal from the Mooiplaats Project during early September, with the first train loaded on September 11 at the Umlabo siding bound for the Matola Terminal in Maputo, Mozambique.

“Reaching this major milestone marks the transition from an exploration and development company into a mining company,” said Simon Farrell, managing director, CoAL. “The system is now in place to facilitate the ramp up of production once mining of the export quality thermal coal commences.”

The company will continue to load further trains to utilize the maximum available stockpile at the Matola Terminal of approximately 80,000 metric tons (mt). The shipping program is anticipated to commence during the fourth quarter of 2009.

Chile’s Southern Energy to Begin Production at Lota Bay

Southern Energy Co. announced that the warmer weather associated with the coming of spring in Chile will allow for the commencement of pre-production development at the Lota Bay Coal Recovery Project in Lota Bay, Chile. Better means smaller waves in the bay, which will allow the company to start and finish the final engineering programs on both Lota Bay Nos. 1 and 2 coal concessions. These programs will comprise a geophysical program over the bottom of the bay to delineate the extent of the coal deposit and a drill program to measure the depth and the layering of the coal, plus supply material for the testing that will decide the final equipment of the coal recovery systems.