In March 2015, the Group acquired a royalty interest in the Narrabri coal project, a major thermal coal and Pulverised Coal Injection (‘PCI’) coal mine located in New South Wales, Australia operated by Australian Stock Exchange listed Whitehaven Coal Limited (‘Whitehaven’). The Narrabri Royalty entitles the holder to royalty payments equal to 1% of gross revenue on all coal produced from within the area.
Total royalties from Narrabri decreased by 23% in the year to £3.1m (2019: £4.0m), despite sales volumes increasing slightly to 6.4Mt (2019: 6.2Mt). The decrease in royalties was the result of sustained lower thermal coal prices throughout 2020, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The price for Australian 6000kcal thermal coal FOB Newcastle reached a multi-year low of under US$49/t in August 2020, before recovering to its present level of ~US$98/t. Narrabri achieved an average realised sale price of U$62/t in 2020. Following the closure of a number of Indian ports and the deferral of shipments by customers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitehaven sold into a weakened spot market, replacing its high value PCI sales with lower value thermal coal sales.
The Narrabri mine was not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020 however, a weighting event occurred in March 2020 resulting in 20 days of lost production, equivalent to 500-600Kt of production. Production was also affected in the December quarter by a mid-face 3 metre upthrow fault that resulted in reduced productivity and increased out of seam dilution. Higher ash coals resulting from mining through this fault has led to lower than expected realised pricing for the Narrabri product.
Despite these challenges, Narrabri achieved full year ROM production of 6.1Mt, which was in line with their guidance of 6.0-6.5Mt for Whitehaven’s year ended 30 June 2020.