BHP Billiton making deep cuts to its Australian coal operations
BHP Billiton is responding to the depressed price of coal and the struggling Australian dollar by cutting back on operations and employees throughout its operations in Queensland, Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the company is cutting 700 workers across its Queensland metallurgical coal business.
BHP is the biggest employer in central Queensland. Exactly how the latest round of job cuts take place is to be negotiated over the next few months.
The cuts are part of an ongoing review and represent about 8 percent of the 6,000 full-time staff at its Queensland coal business, BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA), The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
BHP owns 50 percent of BMA, with Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi holding the other half. The business also employs about 5,000 contractors.
BMA asset president Lucas Dow said the group "had to act to ensure the long-term viability of the business."
"BMA has to redouble its efforts to improve the cost base of the business," he said.
BHP has not ruled out further job cuts in its coal division.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said he was "very sad" for the men and women losing their jobs as well as their families.
And he called on the company to provide "every assistance" to the workers.
But Newman said 80,000 jobs had been created in Queensland since the Liberal National Party came to power in 2012.
"I reflect on the fact that we are very, very close to the massive Galilee Basin coal projects kicking off," he said. "Particularly I am referring to the Adani project, which could see up to 10,000 jobs being created."
The $60 billion coal industry is under immense pressure, with mine closures and job losses expected to accelerate this year.
Prices for metallurgical coal have fallen to about $US113/t, a far cry from the $US300/t it was fetching in the heady coal boom days of mid-2011.
The fresh round of job losses comes after a cut 173 jobs from BHP's Mt Arthur thermal coal operations in New South Wales' Hunter Valley in July.
BHP said in June it would pull back activity at its Goonyella coking coalmine in Queensland to avoid the operation slipping into the red.
About 12,500 jobs have been cut from the sector over the past two years amid a string of mine closures and delays to projects by companies including BHP, Rio, Glencore, Vale and Peabody Energy.