Hanson adds to its stake in Australian coal mine

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HANSON, the industrial conglomerate, is adding to the Australian coal interests it acquired last year by buying an additional 15 per cent stake in one of its mines, writes Heather Connon.

The purchase, for an undisclosed sum from Westpac Banking Corporation, brings its stake in the Warkworth Mine in New South Wales up to 43.75 per cent. Other partners in the mine are Mitsubishi, Minproc Energy and Nippon Steel. Warkworth is the largest of the three mines acquired by Hanson from Costain, the construction group, for dollars 200m ( pounds 135m) last April. It produces 3 million tons of coal a year and also controls about 250 tons of surface coal reserves.

Irl Engelhart, chairman of Peabody Holding - Hanson's US coal subsidiary, which manages the Australian business - said: 'The purchase . . . demonstrates our confidence in the Warkworth project and in the potential for exports of Australian coal. The Pacific Rim is expected to be the fastest-growing coal market in the coming years.'