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Article by Darren Malone – +44 208 260 2088
Investor confidence in Poland’s coal mining industry is on the up again due to strong international prices for coking coal and strong steel demand.
There are three high quality coking coal projects under development in Poland, which will diversify supply portfolios for European steel producers and reduce imports from Australia and the United States.
Prairie Mining is developing two mines – the Debiensko and Jan Karski. Debiensko is being lined-up as a premium hard coking coal project and is development ready. A drilling program has already been initiated and selected seams from the Debiensko mine indicate that two hard coking coal specifications are viable, both lie within the range of international accepted benchmark coals. The mid-vol specs have an FSI of 8.5 and CSR of about 63% (comparable with Goonyella from Queensland) and has the potential to produce up to 4.02.6 mt/yr (run-of-mine) saleable hard coking coal) from 2022. It is located in the upper Silesian coal basin.
The Jan Karski prospect is listed by Prairie as a high value semisoft coking coal asset, with the latest drilling and washability results indicating a product ash content of about 3.00% and a CSR of 51.50%. The ultra-low ash content makes it ideal for blending with hard coking coal and gives it a high value-in-use price premium of 10% above other premium Hunter Valley, Australian semi-soft coals. The low ash is more environmentally friendly, especially attractive in a tough EU regulatory environment for coal producers.
Prairie also has a huge logistic advantage compared to imported coking coal from the US and Australia. Delivered costs to the nearest steel plant and coke ovens are estimated at $4.6/t, compared to a cost of $37.70/t for imported coal. The two mines are next to existing seams mines that are being worked by listed Polish coal producers JSW and Bogdanka, so power, water and rail infrastructure is already in place.
Despite the early stages of the two projects, Prairie is already in discussions with local steel makers and coke producers for offtake agreements. Prairie estimates that Europe’s steel industry consumes 47 75 mt/yr of hard coking coal (PCI, hard and semisoft), of which 85% is imported mainly from Australia and the US.
Central European countries consume about 25mt -30 mt/yr of coking coal. Poland’s production has been declining in recent years and qualities have not met specifications. This has forced some steel producers to import coking coal from Canada for blending with domestic material. Yesterday, ArcelorMittal reported a supply disruption at two of its Polish coking plants in Krakow and Zdzieszowice. JSW’s Zofiówka coking coal mine supplies the two plants, but deliveries have been have been reduced, due to a shortage of rail wagons.
ArcelorMittal said it has been forced to change its coal mix. Zdzieszowice is one of the biggest coke plants in Europe, with a production capacity of about 4.40 mt/yr. The Krakow-based plant has a coke-making capacity of 0.70 mt/yr, according to a trading source. ArcelorMittal’s contract with JSW expires at the end of the year. Other regional steel makers in Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria also need security of supply of high spec coking coal, which the existing mines are having problems producing.
Meanwhile, ASX-listed Balamara Resources is also developing a major coking coal asset – Nowa Ruda in the lower Silesian coal basin. Early indications are showing that the mine can produce material with a CSR of about 69%, which is comparable to premium Australian coking coal. Annual production is expected to be about 1.50 mt/y and is slated for production in 2019. There are five steel plants within 150 km of the coking coal mine, and talks have already taken place with regional steel-makers to take the coal. There are also plans to upgrade Gdansk port to load Baby Capes. At the moment it is limited to Panamax vessels. Fundamentals for steel and coking coal in Europe are strong going forward. Coking coal is on the list of critical raw materials listed by the European Commission. Poland is also coal friendly, and has a well-trained mining workforce.
Elsewhere in Europe, Prairie also notes that growing demand for ultra-low emission vehicles is expected to drive growth in steel supply to the regional car industry. Almost 0.5 tonnes of coking coal are required to produce the structural, electrical and plated steel for each electric car. In the UK, infrastructure projects including the High Speed 2 Rail Line and the construction of the Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station are expected to use over 3 million tonnes of steel.
Prairie Mining and Balamara Resources are still in the early stages of development, but they are ideally positioned to supply coking coal to meet Europe’s steel demand going forward.
Link to full IHS Inside Coal 9.11.17 note