UK-Australian resources firm BHP Billiton has cut another 150 jobs from its 16mn t/yr Mount Arthur thermal coal mine in New South Wales (NSW), just four months after cutting an initial 163 jobs.

BHP’s NSW coal head Peter Sharpe explained that the changes are being carried out in an effort to ‘reset the operation’s cost base’.

“The Australian coal industry continues to experience difficult market conditions, including continuing low coal process and a strong Australian dollar,” Sharpe said.

Life extension of mine

The jobs cuts come despite the NSW Planning Assessment Commission having approved a four-year mine life extension at Mount Arthur to 2026, which would allow up to an additional 128mn/t of coal to be extracted, according to reports.

BHP is focusing on cost cutting and productivity improvements across its coal division in response to lower prices.

“We have made progress at Mt Arthur Coal in our efforts to reset our cost base, but regrettably, and additional 150 roles will be made redundant by the end of February 2015 as a result of further operational efficiencies,” explained Sharpe.

Redundant roles

The roles will be both contractor and full time, with around 86 full time employees and 67 contractors to be let go.

“We understand this will be difficult for our people and we will be working closely with affected employees throughout the process,” Sharpe added.

Earlier this year BHP announced it would be shedding 163 positions from the site in an effort to bring the mine back into productivity.

Counter-productive policies

Mineral Council CEO Stephen Galilee said the industry is not being helped by the policies of the state government.

“Dealing with these tough times is being made tougher due to New South Wales Government policies that include a broken planning system that refuses important projects like Drayton South that would protect and save Hunter jobs,” he said.

The NSW Minerals Council said this round of job losses at Mt Arthur is a further sign of the tough times the NSW coal industry is facing, due to the cyclical downturn in coal prices.

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