South32 flags labour crunch after marginal rise to metallurgical coal output

(Image courtesy of South32)

Diversified miner South32 Ltd said on Monday adverse weather conditions and pandemic-led labour disruptions impacted its total coal production, even as the Australian company posted a 3% rise in its fourth-quarter metallurgical coal output.

Shares of the company were up 2.3% in early trade.

The Perth-based miner said its total coal output dropped 8% in the three months ended June 30 to 1.6 million tonnes (Mt), as it joins global miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto to flag labour shortages.

Australian authorities have been struggling to get ahead of the highly contagious Omicron variant, with hospital admissions hovering near record levels, which have led to a shortage of skilled labour in the country.

South32 said production of metallurgical coal, used to make steel, rose to 1.38 Mt in the reported quarter, but it missed a UBS estimate of 1.57 Mt. The company completed three longwall moves across Appin and Dendrobium mines during the year.

Longwall configuration is a form of underground mining where a long wall of coal is mined in a single slice.

With the sale of its four non-core base metals royalties to Anglo Pacific Group Plc, South32 said it continues to seek potential divestment opportunities for its stake in the Eagle Downs metallurgical coal project.

The world’s biggest manganese ore producer also recorded a 4% rise in its fourth-quarter output to 1.5 million wet metric tonnes (Mwmt), compared with 1.4 Mwmt last year. The annual output stood at 5.4 Mwmt, down nearly 3% from a year-ago period.

(By Upasana Singh and Sameer Manekar; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Diane Craft and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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