Indian developer Adani remains on track to ship its first coal this month from its 10mn t/yr Carmichael thermal coal mine in the Galilee basin in central Queensland, despite protestors targeting train and port infrastructure.
Activists have this week attached themselves to the rail line connecting Carmichael to Abbot Point, blocking early deliveries of coal from the project to the port. Another protestor today scaled one of the two shiploaders at the 50mn t/yr Abbot Point coal export terminal and stopping the loading of a vessel.
Adani subsidiary Bravus began testing and commissioning trains on the rail line a few weeks ago, which includes transporting coal to the port. It is unclear if the coal being loaded at Abbot Point is Carmichael coal, with Bravus only commenting that Carmichael in on track to export coal this year.
Several other coal producers that operate in the northern Bowen basin, ship through Abbot Point, including Switzerland-based mining and trading firm Glencore's 3.5mn t/yr Collinsville and 5.5mn t/yr Newlands coal mines.
The Carmichael mine is the first coal mine to be built in the Galilee basin, which sits to the west of the Bowen basin. It has attracted scepticism, partly because of its distance from a port and the low quality of thermal coal compared with other existing operations and development opportunities in Australia. But Bravus has overcome skills shortages and heavy rainfall to push the project towards completion. Carmichael coal will have a calorific value of around NAR 4,950 kcal/kg, lower than the standard 5,500-6,000 kcal/kg in Australia's Hunter valley and Bowen basin.
Thermal coal prices rebounded last week, having eased from record highs in mid-October but still above long-term averages. Argus last assessed the high-grade 6,000 kcal/kg NAR thermal coal price at $174.80/t fob Newcastle on 26 November, up from $154.38/t on 19 November but down from $251.43/t on 15 October and up from $65/t a year ago. It assessed lower grade 5,500 kcal/kg coal at $99.80/t fob Newcastle for NAR 5,500 kcal/kg on 26 November, up from $95.56/t on 19 November but down from a high of $164/t on 22 October.
The heat-adjusted premium on a NAR 6,000 kcal/kg basis for higher grade thermal coal increased to $65.93/t on 26 November from $36.17/t on 28 October but was down from $79.57/t on 15 October. The spread is still much wider than average and up from as low as $1.65/t last year before China's informal ban on Australian coal took full effect. The higher ash content means that Carmichael coal should attract a greater discount than the NAR 5,500 kcal/kg coal, although it is unclear what marketing agreements are in place for Adani to deliver the coal to India.
India has become the fourth-largest buyer of Australian thermal coal this year, after Beijing initiated its ban. India took 14.33mn t of Australian thermal coal during January-September, up from 3.49mn t in the same period of 2020, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.