Australian coal miners explore everywhere but home

Fri Sep 27, 2013 3:26am EDT
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* Prospectors count on a rebound in coking coal price

* Say majors like BHP, Peabody have cornered Australia

* High costs in Australia also push prospectors to look abroad

* Places like Siberia, Kyrgyzstan offer lower cost base

By James Regan

SYDNEY, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Betting on a recovery in the price of metallurgical coal, at least a dozen Australian prospectors are scouring the globe for mines to dig, locked out of a home market by bigger rivals.

The firms listed on the Australian Securities Exchange with a combined market capitalisation of about A$800 million ($748.68 million) are opting to explore Siberian tundra, South American jungles, Mongolian deserts and other far-flung locations.

Australia has the world's biggest reserves of metallurgical, or coking, coal and is well placed to supply China and Japan, the leading importers of the fuel used in steel making. So why are Australian prospectors heading overseas?

"The coking coal industry in Australia is dominated by the mega companies -- the likes of BHP Billiton Glencore Xstrata, Peabody and Rio Tinto ," said Alex Molyeneux, managing director of Celsius Coal , which is prospecting in the Kyrgyzstan. "And the majors also sit on most new prospective deposits."   Continued...