Billiton Closes Australian Coal Mine (BHP)

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BHP Billiton plc (NYSE: BHP) today announced the closing of its Norwich Park metallurgical coal mine in Queensland. The mine is one of six owned and operated by a 50/50 partnership between Billiton and Japan’s Mitsubishi.

In its announcement of the closure, Billiton said:

This situation has come about as a result of a combination of lower production, a significant increase in costs and lower coal prices. … The decision to cease production follows a seven week review of the mine’s viability. The review could not establish any immediate remedies that would allow the operation to sustainably return to profitability.

About 1,400 employees will lose their jobs as a result of the closure. Of that number about 500 are Billiton employees and the others are contractors. Heavy rains and flooding last year hurt production at the mine, and labor issues have affected all six of the partnership mines.