BIG IMPACT: The side of the Burton Mine, which lies on Burton Downs station about 400metres from the original homestead.
BIG IMPACT: The side of the Burton Mine, which lies on Burton Downs station about 400metres from the original homestead.

Former miner speaks out after coal mine closes

A FORMER Burton coal mine worker is confident the mine will reopen despite being mothballed late last year.

The miner, who asked not to be named because of risk to future employment in the industry, explained he was an operator at the Peabody Energy-owned Burton mine for about a decade and believed it could reopen.

"They are sitting on a gold mine," he said.

The miner worked at the Widening Pit and said it had a lot of life left when it was mothballed in December.

He said the quality of the coal was high and there was low ash content.

But he claims that management issues became a problem in recent years, and promises were made and not kept.

"It was a very challenging pit (Burton Widening Pit) to mine," he said.

"They were also throwing money away hand over fist," the miner claimed.

"They laid a million-dollar slab to build a workshop, then just tore it up to mine under it."

Mine managers Thiess was unavailable for comment on Burton's mine operations.

The worker said employees also took a pay cut about two years ago. At that time, he said that employees were promised that when the mine closed, they would be offered work at other sites.

Miners were told in August that the mine would be mothballed, but it wasn't until December that it was closed. Miners found themselves out of work.

The promises the worker claims were made did not eventuate.

But the former miner is not angry, just disappointed at the loss of a great team on the ground.

"There were a lot of talented people working at the site, and they worked well together," he said.

"Back in the early days we had Hastings Deering and Liebherr guys on site. These guys were really good and it was run really well," he said.

Even when things got tough for the miners, he said, there was camaraderie among the workers.

"With the price of coal going up in the last eight months we thought (the mine) would get an extension on its life. I'm disappointed. It was just a good company for such a long time."

Peabody confirmed the Burton mine, which was its highest-cost Australian mine producing thermal and coking coal, had closed.

"The transition of the Burton mine in Queensland's Bowen Basin into a care, maintenance and rehabilitation phase (was completed) in December 2016 following successful completion of the Thiess contractor mining contract," a Peabody spokesman said this week.

In August, Peabody Energy's creditors approved a plan that involved a major scaling back of production at its Australian assets and the closure of its Burton mine.

The Australian reported the St Louis-based Peabody, whose huge US domestic mines make it the world's biggest private-sector coal company, had released updated earnings forecasts for the next five years showing healthy earnings from its Australian mines, which were previously expected to lose money in 2016.

Peabody said the company's thermal and coking coalmines in Queensland and NSW were expected to deliver $US225m of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and restructuring costs in 2016, The Australian report said.

This is up from predictions of a $US20m loss made in August, when Peabody delivered plans to relist after debt and low prices forced it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April.

In a five-year plan endorsed by the creditors, Peabody said the metallurgical and thermal sectors were core business but it "anticipates a smaller but more profitable platform focused on high-quality products and/or top-tier assets to capitalise on higher growth in Asia''.

In Australia, Peabody forecasts that coal sales will decrease from 36 million tonnes in 2016 to 28 million in 2021 and it also intends to sell, suspend or divest non-strategic assets.

It also wants to restructure or mitigate take-or-pay agreements to improve cash flows.

Contact the reporter, email

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