* Whitehaven says coking coal prices to stay high for months
* Company was not affected by Cyclone Debbie
* Looking to boost sales as some exporters face stalled
SYDNEY, April 13 Australia's Whitehaven Coal Ltd
said on Thursday that coking coal prices would remain
high for months as supply disruptions since Cyclone Debbie
damaged train lines and interrupted exports reverberate through
Whitehaven, whose mines about 1,300 km (800 miles) south of
the cyclone's path have been unaffected by the rail stoppages,
also plans to boost its own coking coal sales next quarter as
exporters further north grapple with stalled operations.
Five miners in the cyclone-hit region, including BHP
Billiton and Glencore have declared
force majeure - a clause typically invoked after natural
disasters - since multiple landslides and flooding knocked out
major coal rail networks.
Railway operator Aurizon is gradually returning
some tracks to service. Its Blackwater line resumed operations
on Monday and its Newlands line is expected to open on Thursday.
However, with the busiest Goonyella line further north
closed until May, the disruption caused by the cyclone could
lead to the potential loss of 15 million tonnes of coking and
thermal coal exports from Australia, Whitehaven said in a
statement on Thursday.
"This loss of exports is likely to be positive for coal
prices until normal production and shipments resume and any
contract delivery shortfall recovered, which could take some
months," the company said.
Coking coal prices this month posted the biggest one-day
surge on record as the rail outages blocked up to half the
world's export shipments.
Spot prices on the Dalian Commodity Exchange,
jumped more than 7 percent and Australian coking coal futures on
the Singapore Exchange leapt 43 percent on news of the
Whitehaven said customer requests for coking coal "increased
substantially" since the storm and that the company expected to
boost coking coal sales next quarter.
Whitehaven said it produced 5.7 million tonnes of coal for
the quarter and affirmed its full-year production guidance of 21
to 22 million tonnes.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Eric Meijer and Joseph