Coal miner Whitehaven has upgraded its guidance for the 2015/16 financial year after a strong December quarter saw a doubling of production thanks to its newly-opened Maules Creek mine in the Gunnedah Basin in NSW.
Maules Creek, which was plagued by opposition from environmental groups and farmers, began operations in July 2015. Whitehaven is currently ramping up production at the mine to its target of 13mtpa, and reached an annualised rate of 8.5mtpa in December 2015.
The workforce at Maules Creek has risen 333 employees as more people were recuited to operate mining equipment for the increased production rate, the company said.
Through its first six months, Maules Creek produced 3.3mt of run of mine (ROM) coal, helping Whitehaven achieve 9.3mt in total ROM production in the first half of the 2015/16 financial year, up 64% year on year.
In the December quarter alone, the Maules Creek operation helped Whitehaven more than double its ROM figure across all operations, to a total of 5.4mt ROM for the three-month period to end 2015.
Total saleable coal production for Whitehaven was 4.9mt in the December quarter, up 108% on the year prior.
The strong figures have allowed Whitehaven up increase its total production guidance for the 2015/16 financial year to between 19.5mt and 20.1mt.
Whitehaven is reporting a cash margin exceeding $13 a tonne in the first half of the financial year, helping it achieve an EBITDA of between $100m and $105m during the six-month stretch.
The miner is projecting net debt to be reduced during this financial year, after a profitable first half.