Thermal coal prices drop to $US51/tonne - a fall of nearly $20/tonne in a month

A drop in demand combined with an increase in supply means thermal coal prices are taking a hammering.

Last week the spot price for the 6000 kilocalories per kilogram was fetching $US51 down nearly $US20/t in a month.

Lesser grade thermal coal is selling for $US40/t - which is some cases would be below production costs.

May 2014 Vale's Integra mine workers arrive at a meeting in Singleton.

May 2014 Vale's Integra mine workers arrive at a meeting in Singleton.

It was six years ago that low coal prices took their on the local industry. In May 2014 Vale exited the industry closing its open cut and underground mine known as the Integra Complex near Singleton with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

Prices went onto peak again at $US117/t in August 2018 before steadily declining to the current levels during the past 22 months.

Fortunately mining companies lock in annual supply contracts with the Financial Times reporting the region's biggest coal producer Glencore locking in its annual supply agreement with Japanese utility companies at the start of April at just under $US70/t.

Also assisting the miners is the fact cost of production is lower due to low fuel prices and the Australian dollar is also lower.

Coking coal prices have also been impacted now sitting at $US113 per tonne last week.

This time last year Queensland coking coal miners were revelling in boom time prices of $US210 per tonne, according to the Australian Financial Review (AFR)

In other mining news the AFR reported unions have had a win in their fight against BHP chief executive Mike Henry's signature industrial relations reform, after the Fair Work Commission upheld an appeal against two crucial enterprise agreements.

A review panel declared on Friday that "two fundamental errors" had informed Fair Work Commission deputy president Gerard Boyce's decision in December to approve the two BHP enterprise agreements.

The two enterprise agreements relate to BHP's new "operations services" subsidiaries, which have employed more than 2300 staff over the past year to perform the tasks previously done by external contractors.

The Operations Services enterprise agreements will now be heard again by the full bench of the commission.