Australia's coal miners are headed for a $17 billion collapse in export earnings this year as the shock of the coronavirus crisis persists and more Asian power utilities switch from coal to gas.
The projected declines across 2020-21, contained in a federal government report to be released on Monday, come after a succession of coal companies reported sharp full-year profit contractions including New Hope Corporation, which took a 69 per cent hit, and Whitehaven Coal which fell 95 per cent.
Swiss giant Glencore last week suspended operations at most of its coal mines in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales for at least a fortnight in a bid to curtail output in the face of falling demand.
Exports of metallurgical coal – the coal used in steelmaking – are projected to shrink 34 per cent from $35 billion to $23 billion as prices hover around four-year lows, according to the federal Industry Department, while thermal coal – used in power generation – is set to fall 25 per cent from $20 billion to $15 billion.
"At current prices, a significant proportion of Australian thermal coal production is loss-making," it said.