(EnergyAsia, August 30 2010, Monday) — The world’s largest private-sector coal company, Peabody Energy, said it will expand the production capacity of the Wilpinjong thermal coal mine in Australia’s New South Wales state by two to three million tons annually from 2012.

US-based Peabody said it expects to invest a total of US$90 million, including US$20 million for 2010, to enable Wilpinjong, one of Australia’s lowest-cost mines, to increase exports using the expanded port capacity from the recently commissioned Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group (NCIG) terminal.

While late-stage licensing and mine engineering activities are advancing, the project is subject to final permitting and regulatory approval.

Peabody said the mine’s expansion is among several thermal and metallurgical coal projects aimed at expanding its Australian production volumes to up to 40 million tons a year by 2014.

The company said it is targeting an increase in seaborne metallurgical coal shipments to 12 to 15 million tons per year by 2014, and an increase in thermal coal exports to 15 to 17 million tons per year. Earlier this year, Peabody also approved a one million ton-per-year expansion of the Metropolitan metallurgical mine, also in New South Wales.

Peabody Energy chairman and CEO Gregory H. Boyce said: “The Wilpinjong expansion is among a number of organic growth initiatives to build our global platform for serving the fastest-growing economies and coal markets in the world.

 “Asian nations are forecast to account for more than 90% of global coal demand growth in the next two decades, and Australia will continue to build its position as the chief supplier of seaborne coal.”

In 2009, Wilpinjong shipped 8.3 million tons to meet domestic and global demand and is among a portfolio of Peabody operations in Queensland and New South Wales that targets to ship 27 to 29 million tons this year.