AMERICAN coal company Peabody Energy is again in financial trouble, putting a question mark over its important Australian operations, including the Hunter's Wambo mine and its complex at Wilpinjong, near Mudgee, which exports out of Newcastle.
Peabody came out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US in April 2017 after restructuring its debts, but sliding coal prices have hit it again financially, and it outlined a series of financing changes this week.
Although it has mines in the US, Peabody's Australian operations are pivotal to its success and Wilpinjong is now regarded as its most profitable asset after an underground fire closed its North Goonyella mine in Queensland two years ago.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that Australian exports in September were 9.5 per cent down on the same time last year, with COVID-related downturns in demand adding to the growing climate-related pressures on the nation's second-biggest export earner, after iron ore.
Coal experts say the slide is the result of various influences including the politically inspired Chinese import bans on Australian coal.