Peabody to close down Wilkie Creek coal mine
IT IS a case of wrong place, wrong time for 200 miners in south-west Queensland as American-based resources giant Peabody shuts down its Wilkie Creek coal mine near Dalby to focus on its suite of operations further north.
But as Australia's coal industry continues to be buffeted by a storm of low coal prices and high costs, there could be more closures ahead.
HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said the industry was still being "hammered" so other mines could follow suit.
"It would not be surprising to see some coal mines potentially shut down in the future because of those challenges," he said.
"(Coal) prices may stabilise and indeed we expect they will, but players in this sector need to make an assessment of whether they can remain profitable at the current level of prices."
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union is disappointed with Peabody's decision to shutter the mine, saying it was "a blow to workers, their families and local communities just before Christmas".
CFMEU Queensland vice-president Shane Brunker said Wilkie Creek was too good and too productive to be shut down.
"Mineworkers, their families and communities should not have to pay the price for Peabody's business decisions," he said.
Peabody struggled to offload Wilkie Creek for at least 18 months but at the end of a company review, has opted to shut down the operation before the end of the year.
A skeleton number of workers will remain for the early months of next year following the closure.
It is the second dose of bad news for the site in the past four months, with Peabody slicing 70 jobs from the operation in late September as part of a company wide cull of 400 workers announced in July.
In a company statement, Peabody Energy Australia President Charles Meintjes said Wilkie Creek was already being wound up and thanked workers for their dedication.
Workers are to be offered volunteer redundancies or, where possible, jobs at Peabody's other mines.
It has seven mines in Queensland's Bowen Basin, west of Mackay and Rockhampton and three in New South Wales.
No other Peabody mines are understood to be facing closure.