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BHP sees limited met coal output rebound in 2020-21 on weak market outlook

Miner BHP sees potential for a slight recovery in met coal output amid weaker demand in global economies hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, even as China’s steel output grows on the back of a fast recovery.

BHP expects to produce up to 44 million mt of me coal in the 2020-21 financial year, after production fell 3% to 41 million mt in the year earlier period through June 30, 2020, the company said in an operations report released July 21.

BHP expects met coal production over July 2020-June 2021 to be between 40 million and 44 million mt (71 million-77 million mt on a 100% operating basis). This would be “a similar level to the prior year as it reflects an expected deterioration in market outlook due to the impact of COVID-19,” it said.

BHP operates and markets coal for several Queensland met coal mines, which it owns in separate joint ventures with Mitsubishi Corp. and Mitsui & Co.

A slowdown in major importing regions of Europe, India and Northeast Asia have been a major influence on the met coal market as shipments fell, BHP said.

“The geographic diversification of metallurgical coal demand is a long term advantage but an impediment under today’s unique circumstances,” BHP said. “Developments in both supply and demand imply that lower quality products may face headwinds for an extended period. Premium coking coals exhibit attractive medium-term fundamentals.”

BHP said July 21 it expects lower quality met coals to find relatively lower prices and demand compared with premium HCC for a longer period going forward, based on global trends and market structure.

As demand disruption outside China accelerated from April, BHP noted met coal prices traded below earlier lows in second half of 2019 and prices have since stabilized at low levels.

“Chinese demand, on the other hand has been firm. However, China’s coal import policy remains a key uncertainty,” it said

BHP said the Blackwater complex in Queensland is returning to full capacity toward the end of July-September quarter, after flooding in Q1 2020, and as a result volumes will be higher in the second half of the financial year.
Source: Platts

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