The 50:50 joint venture last year suspended operations at two of its seven already developed coal mines in the state of Queensland. This was due to a deteriorating business environment stemming from falling coal prices, the rising Australian dollar and labor costs. One of these two operations, Gregory Crinum has not been operating since last fall. Mitsubishi and BHP Billiton have begun approaching potential buyers in various countries through financial institutions. They are looking to decide on a buyer in six to nine months.

Hit by declining demand from China and elsewhere, the international price of metallurgical coal sank to as low as $170/mt in the October-December period, down from a high of $330 in the April-June quarter of 2011.