Production at the Moatize coal mine, owned by Brazilian mining major Vale and located in the Tete province of Mozambique, hit a record of 5.5-million tons last year, 500 000 t (or 10.7%) higher than in 2015. This comprised 3.5-million tons of metallurgical – or coking – coal and two-million tons of thermal coal. Vale credited the increase to a number of operational improvements at the Moatize Phase I site and the start of operations at Moatize Phase II. The group reports that the Moatize II ramp-up is going well and that its production for 2016 amounted to 940 000 t.
However, although a new record, last year’s production at Moatize was substantially below the guidance figure released at the Vale Day briefing in 2015. That guidance had forecast a 2016 output of ten-million tons. The reasons for the failure to meet the guidance figure were a delay in the starting up of the Moatize II plant (which came into operation in August last year) and a restricted supply of explosives during the fourth quarter of 2016 (4Q16). “The supply of explosives was re-established and the operations performance has been constantly improving since then, with production totalling 0.6-million tons (Mt) in December 2016 and reaching the monthly record of 0.8 Mt in January 2017,” observed the group in its report, ‘Vale Production in 4Q16’.
In terms of coal transported from the mine to coastal ports, and then loaded onto ships and exported, these figures jumped dramatically last year, compared with 2015. This was the result of bringing into service of the Nacala Logistics Corridor, a combination of new and refurbished railway lines that link Moatize/Tete with the port city of Nacala via Malawi. This supplements the existing Sena line from Moatize/Tete to the port city of Beira, which lacked the capacity to transport the coal being produced in Tete province (not just by Vale). Now, with both the Nacala and Sena lines and the Nacala and Beira coal export terminals in operation, the volume of coal railed from the Moatize mine to the coast jumped 113% to 8.8-million tons in 2016, compared with 4.1-million tons in 2015. The volume shipped leapt 136% to 8.7-million tons last year, compared with 3.7-million tons in 2015.
Turning to production in the fourth quarter, this was 1.6-million tons, which was 9.7% down on the third quarter (3Q); on the other hand, it was 30.5% up on 4Q 2015 (4Q15). “After reaching a record in 3Q16, Moatize production decreased in 4Q16 due to constraints in the supply of explosives used in the blasting process,” explained Vale. “Production of metallurgical coal was 5.4% lower than in 3Q16 but 15.2% higher than in 4Q15, while production of thermal coal was 16.5% lower than in 3Q16 but 69.8% higher than in 4Q15.”
In terms of volumes railed and shipped, the quantity of coal put on trains during 4Q16 was 2.4-million tons, 13% up on the 2.1-million tons during 3Q16. The amount of coal loaded on ships was 2.1-million tons in 4Q16, only slightly below the 2.2-million tons of 3Q16. December 2016 saw new monthly records set in both categories, with 1 097 000 t railed and 1 071 000 t loaded onto ships.
The group’s total global coal output last year was 7.2-million tons, fractionally lower than the 7.3-million tons in 2015. This slight fall was due to Vale selling its Carborough Downs operation, in Australia, during November last year, “as well as operational challenges with the longwall in Carborough Downs throughout the year”. The group’s Australian production in 2016 was, at 1.7-million tons, 27.7% lower than in 2015, owing to the constraints and subsequent sale of Carborough Downs. Vale no longer has any operational coal projects in Australia, having sold them all over a period of some 17 months.