Coal is making a comeback in Australia and in the Queensland, that resurgence could be worth $1 billion in royalties for the state government according to some economists.
The Courier Mail reported that at one of the state’s biggest coal ports Dalrymple Bay, near Mackay, 45 ships were waiting at sea for coal, the longest queue since 2010 when floods devastated the industry. Some of those ships will wait as long as three weeks before they get to a berth and it’s because of “unprecedented demand’’ for Queensland’s coal, according to the port’s management.
New mines are being developed and some shuttered mines are being brought back online to meet the high demand for coal from Queensland. The demand is so high that there is a growing concern about a skills shortage and finding a workforce to meet the demand.
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said every ton of coal exported meant more money in royalties which is more teachers, nurses and police.
“It is yet another sign of the strong fundamentals of Queensland’s coals when prices rise following a change to supply,’’ he said.
“Our customers, particularly for coal, value Queensland’s high quality product.’’
The terminal is currently contracted to provide 78 Mt/a (86 million stpy) of coal but in the last three months the level has been smashed with the rate peaking at 100 Mt/a (110 million stpy) during September.
Industry sources said coal companies were scrambling to find ships and were paying premiums so they can catch up for lost time and volumes caused by Cyclone Debbie earlier this year that shut the Bowen Basin industry down for two weeks and severely disrupted Aurizon’s rail network to the port.
One source said Dalrymple Bay had been working well but was not keeping up.
According to McCullough Robertson strategic adviser Michael Roche, coal export volumes from Queensland have been very strong across the board, but only Dalrymple Bay was experiencing significant wait times for coal ships, reflecting some special circumstances that have put strain on that port.
The windfall in royalties is driven mainly by the improved prices for coal. The State Government had forecast an average price for the year of $US115/t ($104/st), but it is currently sitting at about $US193 ($195/st) .