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Alpha rules out divestiture of metallurgical coal assets

Keywords: Tags  Alpha Natural Resources, Kevin Crutchfield, Coaltrans, metallurgical coal, coal, thermal coal, South America market, Juan Weik

RIO DE JANEIRO — Alpha Natural Resources Inc. does not plan to sell off any of its metallurgical coal assets in the near future, chairman and chief executive officer Kevin Crutchfield told AMM sister publication Steel First April 25.

Analysts recently suggested there would be more mine closures, idlings and sell-offs in the U.S. coal sector.

However, even though scant demand for coal has forced the Bristol, Va.-based company to significantly reduce production in recent months, most of those cuts were in thermal coal, Crutchfield said on the sidelines of the 6th Coaltrans Brazil and South America conference in Rio de Janeiro.

"We’re now looking at our portfolio and will probably sell some assets, but most likely thermal coal assets not met coal," he said.

Alpha’s metallurgical coal sales increased 5.7 percent to 20.26 million tonnes in 2012 from 19.17 million tonnes in 2011, and metallurgical coal shipments for this year are expected to reach 20.5 million tonnes, Crutchfield said.

"We are third in the world right now (in metallurgical coal production)," he said. "There’s BHP (Billiton Plc), Teck (Resources Ltd.) and us, and we like that position; we want to continue there."

However, Alpha’s overall coal sales are forecast to decline to around 87 million tonnes this year from 108.8 million tonnes in 2012 and 106.3 million tonnes in 2011.

Crutchfield would like to see Alpha’s metallurgical coal exports to South America increase, he told delegates at the conference.

Exports to South America reached 1.5 million tonnes in 2012. "We would like to double that," he said.

Overall, 75 percent of Alpha’s metallurgical coal sales are destined for the export market, especially to Europe and Asia.

Metallurgical coal production could "easily" be lifted to some 24 million to 25 million tonnes annually if demand improves, Crutchfield told Steel First when asked about the company’s output capacity.

"In the future, we could increase that level to 30 million tonnes per year," he added.

A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Steel First.

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