Peabody idles Australian coal mine due to union dispute

PERTH Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:52am EDT

PERTH Oct 14 (Reuters) - Peabody Energy said on Monday it had temporarily shut down operations at its Metropolitan coal mine in Queensland, Australia, pre-empting a planned strike by workers after a stand-off over a new employment contract.

The mine, which produced 1.9 million tonnes of coking coal in 2012 and employs about 330 workers, was shut on Sunday and will restart operations on Tuesday, Peabody said in an emailed statement.

Wages were a big sticking point in reaching a new employment agreement, according to the labour union involved.

"Mineworkers just want to see this dispute resolved and they've demonstrated this by making numerous concessions during negotiations ... Members have agreed to pay freezes in the next 12 months," Bob Timbs, a spokesman for the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, said in a statement.

Peabody would not comment on any employee concessions, saying the company was still negotiating with workers and wanted an agreement "which reflects current market conditions, lifts productivity, reduces costs, enhances safety and provides greater job security for Metropolitan mine employees".

Peabody and other global coal miners are trying to slash operating costs because of a drop in coal prices and a global oversupply of the commodity.

Spot coking coal prices dipped this week to around $147 per tonne from nearly $150 last week, according to UBS. They have fallen from a high for the year of around $170 per tonne in February but are above the low of around $130 in July.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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