Sinking coal prices force major job cuts in Australia

Xstrata Coal (LON:XTA) confirmed Monday it has cut a number of jobs from its coal mining operations in Australia due to sinking prices for both coking and certain kinds of thermal coal, Platts reports.

The Swiss miner joins an expanding list of coal producers that have made staff cuts at specific Australian operations.  BHP Billiton, Ensham Resources, Rio Tinto and Peabody Energy have also recently reduced their Aussie workforce in light of the suffering coal market.

According to The Australian (sub required), giant miner BHP (ASX, LON, NYSE: BHP) is considering further reductions in Brisbane. The measure would mainly affect an office that handles planning for the company's metallurgical coal assets.

The company is also scaling back other expensive expansion projects including Olympic Dam, Pilbara, Escondida – where it partners with Rio Tinto – and the brownfields Jansen potash project in Canada.

Mining companies' demand for contractors fluctuates with shifting market conditions. In preceding coal market declines workers were some of the first to go, as companies usually have fewer contractual obligations towards them than permanent staff.