Yancoal Australia boss not happy with lengthy delays and red-tape in NSW mining approvals

Surging thermal coal prices means Yancoal Australia want to access their Hunter Valley coal reserves now according to the company’s boss Reinhold Schmidt.

Mr Schmidt, chief executive officer of Yancoal Australia, delivered an address to yesterday’s Sydney Mining Club where he told his audience coal is definitely not ‘dead’.

In fact it is currently enjoying what he described as industry high benchmark prices.

Reuters reports spot prices for delivery from Australia’s Newcastle terminal last closed at $114 per tonne, just down from Monday’s $114.50, the highest since November 2016. Coal last reached such levels back in early 2012. Newcastle is now up by almost 130 percent from the record lows seen in early 2016.

And given these prices and the boost they have provided to Yancoal’s bottom line of a $229 million profit after tax this year from a revenue of $2.6 billion Mr Schmidt wants to get on with the business of extracting coal from his Hunter mines in particular the approved Warkworth open cut extension.

He told the Mining Club that commentary and policy appears to be created on the run when it came to coal mining.

“Our long tern industry is governed by short term political tenures and agendas. We invest long term, so we deserve long term policies,” he said.

“My consistent advice to observers of the sector (coal mining) is simple; follow the money, don’t follow the opinion.

“Right now, our local industry is suffering at the hands and influence of process junkies. NSW is riddled with a disparity of agencies and agendas. And approval pathways are littered with contradictions.”

He described the planning process for mining as exhausting and likened it to a maze.

What appears to have really angered him is the procedure to close the historic Wallaby Scrub Road that links Bulga to Warkworth but runs right through the Warkworth mine that Yancoal purchased along with Hunter Valley Operations from Rio Tinto in September 2017.

A battle has raged between, first Rio Tinto, and now Yancoal and community groups over the future of the road.

Yancoal would argue the approved extension to the Warkworth mine includes the immediate need to close the road whereas the opponents to such a move say it is a public road that should not be closed or sold to satisfy a mining giants profits.

Mr Schmidt said the State won’t give an approval to close a road to access the coal.

“We are being compelled to do something from one area of government, and then prevented from doing it, by another, he said.

“Today we are at day 171 of a 60 day process. If a major Sydney project was granted development approval, it would shut down a road and get building.”

Mr Schmidt called for the adoption of alternative pathway approvals for resources projects that reflect mining operations and their lifespans.