RPT-Peabody to cut 170 coal mining jobs across Australia

Tue Jul 23, 2013 2:21am EDT

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SYDNEY, July 23 (Reuters) - Peabody Energy Group, the world's largest private-sector coal miner, said it will cut 170 jobs across Australia or about 5.7 percent of its total workforce in the country as it looks to reduce costs amid a global glut in coal supply.

Weak coal prices have battered producers in recent quarters, prompting many of them, including Glencore Xstrata, to cut jobs.

Peabody, which in June announced its plans to slash 450 contractor jobs in Australia, also said that it would not fill 230 vacancies in the country.

"This difficult decision has been made in response to near-term global economic challenges," a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Tuesday, referring to the reduction of 400 permanent positions in Australia.

"The reduction has been made to align the company's workforce size with other cost-reduction activities."

The cuts, which started on Monday, would take place across Peabody's operations in the coal-rich eastern Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales, where it produces both coking and thermal coal.

Prices for thermal coal, used for power generation, have fallen over 30 percent in the last two years to around $80 per tonne, while prices for coking coal, used for steelmaking, have shed about 40 percent in the last year to around $130 per tonne.

Peabody shares have plunged almost 39 percent so far this year, on track for a third straight annual decline. (Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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