More coal mining jobs axed in Australia; Vale joins BHP and Xstrata

Brazilian mining giant Vale (NYSE:VALE) has followed the gloomy trend set by BHP (NYSE:BHP) and Xstrata (LON:XTA) in Australia this week by announcing it will lay-off workers at its coal operations.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the miner’s decision is directly related to Tuesday's surprise mining tax rise in Queensland's state, which is already being labelled as "the final straw” for the coal industry in Down Under.

The cuts are likely to affect Vale's Carborough Downs coal mine near Moranbah, reports the newspaper. So far, Vale has laid off only 20 employees from its 1,300 workforce, well below the 900 workers shed by the BHP and Xstrata Coal.

Australia's coal miners are now confronting the same troubles as the country's beleaguered iron ore players, with operating costs rising as commodities prices plunge.

The spot price of coal has fallen to near three-year lows and is now trading at about $155 a tonne, which is a drop of more than 50% from prices seen early last year, after the floods that hit Queensland.

Vale, which is the world's largest iron ore producer, has suffered the consequences of the commodity hitting three-year lows.

The company has already slowed its operations globally, announcing that it will delay projects in "the conceptual phase" of development due to the current economic climate, as Fox Business reports.

In August, Vale postponed its $3 billion Kronau potash project in Saskatchewan, Canada, which would have added 2.9 million tonnes of potash to the market.

The company will announce its 2013 investments plan at the annual Vale’s Day meeting with investors at the New York Stock Exchange, sometime before the end of November.