Dartbrook back in production by mid-year, says AQC

12th March 2024 By: Mariaan Webb - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

Dartbrook back in production by mid-year, says AQC

The Dartbrook coal mine, in the Hunter Valley of New South Ales, will be back in production by the middle of 2024, after 18 years in care and maintenance.

Australian Pacific Coal (AQC) is accelerating its restart works programme at the Dartbook mine, following the execution of a three-year, $60-million debt facility with Vito Asia in January.

AQC has started drawdowns from the debt facility.

“Since we announced the completion of the Dartbrook restart funding package in January, we have focused on moving the project forward on multiple fronts. With the funds now fully available for the development, orders have been placed for critical equipment and long lead items, and we have begun recruiting additional key personnel,” said interim CEO Ayten Saridas.

AQC and its partners are evaluating a range of options to accelerate the restart work programme and ramp-up period within forecast expenditure limits. The acceleration strategy is based on optimising the mine plan to allow an additional continuous miner to operate in a second panel earlier than originally planned. The modifications are expected to result in increased production in the first year and subsequent year sales volumes.

AQC said further details on the impact of that work would be announced when complete.

Encouraged by earlier studies, AQC would also further examine the potential of Dartbrook mine to produce commercial quantities of semi-soft coking coal under the current mine plan.

With met coal currently trading at a substantial premium to thermal coal, the ability to produce significant volumes of semi-soft coking coal would generate positive financial outcomes for AQC shareholders.

Meanwhile, AQC said additional working capital would be required but not until coal sales started in mid-2024. The company is working with advisers on opportunities to arrange a working capital debt facility structure of about A$30-million.

“We anticipate that sourcing a working capital facility will be relatively straightforward now that restart operations are fully funded. Vitol and our advisers have offered to assist us in this process which could open a number of doors to AQC that were previously unavailable,” said Saridas.