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Will one mine become two

OLD MINE, NEW PLANS: Australian Pacific Coal says it is focused on Dartbrook but has not ruled out interest in the adjoining Mount Pleasant project, which is owned by Rio Tinto.

NATHAN Tinkler has responded tospeculation that the plan to purchase the Dartbrook coal mine could be part of a bigger play involving Rio Tinto’s Mount Pleasant’s project.

As the Newcastle Herald has reported, Dartbrook’s owner Anglo American has announced an intention to sell the mine to Australian PacificCoal, a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange that hasMrTinkler as chief executive andmanaging director with a reported shareholding of 37 per cent.

As part of the sale, Australian Pacific Coal must pay Anglo 25 cents a tonne for any coal that ismoved through Dartbrook but mined elsewhere.

This clause caught the attention of coal industry observers, who pointed out that Dartbrook sits to the immediate north-west ofMount Pleasant, with overlapping borders.

Mount Pleasant is one of the lasttop-quality open-cut sites in the Hunter Region, and a mine has been approved there since 1999.

Rio Tinto owns most of the land within the Mount Pleasant lease, and an updatedconsentwas granted in 2011, allowing it mine 10.5 million tonnes a year from the site until 2020.

Mr Tinkler bought Maules Creek from Rio, which has Mount Pleasant under review.

When the Herald approached Australian Pacific Coal for comment, Mr Tinkler said: “I expect many companies have made offers for Mount Pleasant in the past but the numbers were probably not high enough.

“Hence, we have bought an asset that with further drilling and assessment, we think will be of similar quality with infrastructure already in place.”

A company spokesman went on to saythat speculation in the Hunter Valley may be“running ahead of the realities of the current transaction and [our]position as a small, albeit ambitious, company”.

He said the company was focused on buying Dartbrook.

It hoped to run it was an open-cut mine, providing “significant employment and benefits to the local community”.

“The outside mine royalty clause is standard industry practice and it would be wrong to read too much into its inclusion in the agreement especially given the characteristics of the contracting parties,” the spokesman said.

Rio Tinto declined to comment onquestions about Mount Pleasant, including whether it had entered into any talks involvingMr Tinkler.Australian Pacific Coal’s shares are trading at 2 cents each. Its other major shareholders are Nick Paspaley, of the famous pearling family, and John Robinson Snr, an accountant with “extensive” businessexperience.

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