* Glencore suspends operations at Ravensworth coal mine
* Mine to be put on care and maintenance in September
* Blames low coal prices, high costs and strong Australian
SYDNEY, March 27 Glencore Xstrata will
suspend operations at its Ravensworth underground coal mine in
Australia following a plunge in coal prices due to a supply
The move underscores the plight of coal miners operating in
Australia, including AngloAmerican, BHP Billiton
and Rio Tinto , which have
closed mines and cut staff in recent months to combat worsening
A Glencore spokesman said it was no longer financially
viable to operate the Ravensworth mine owing to a combination of
lower prices, high production costs, a strong Australian dollar
and geological constraints in future mining areas.
The mine produced 2.1 million tonnes of semi-soft coking
coal in 2013 and will be placed on care and maintenance once
work on a longwall section is completed in September, according
to the spokesman.
The price of coking coal used in steelmaking has tumbled by
some $200 per tonne from its 2012 high above $300.
Analysts blame the decline on a supply glut amid slowing
growth in demand from Asian steel markets for imported coal.
Recent metallurgical coal price settlements by major coal
miners showed a fall in the price of all metallurgical coal
types for the first quarter of 2014. The semi-soft coking coal
benchmark price was settled at $103.50 per tonne, down $2 from
the fourth quarter of 2013.
The Ravensworth mine in the Hunter Valley coal belt of New
South Wales state employs 130 full-time employees, according to
Redeployment options across the company's other mining
operations are being investigated, it said.
Over the past 18 months, 1,500 jobs have been lost in mining
in the Hunter Valley as market conditions worsen, according to
Stephen Galilee, chief executive of the New South Wales Minerals
The Ravensworth underground mine operates as a joint venture
between Resource Pacific Pty Ltd, a company owned by Glencore
and Marubeni, and South Korean steelmaker Posco.
As majority shareholder of Resource Pacific, Glencore
oversees the management of the mine.
Most recently, BHP and coal mining partner Mitsubishi
230 jobs would go at the Saraji coking coal mine in
Queensland state to enable it to remaain viable.
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Richard Pullin)