IT WAS a mixed day for the world's top coal exporter, as BHP Billiton gave an upbeat summary of its fortunes to investors while dozens of contractor jobs were lost at one of its Central Queensland coal mines.
Redpath Mining reportedly cut the workers from BHP's Crinum underground mine near Emerald.
Early reports pointed to about 80 being lost, although the figure is now understood to be less than 70.
Crinum's open-cut counterpart Gregory Mine was mothballed in October last year. A spokeswoman for BHP said its plan of spending less while trying to remain nimble meant deals with contracting firms had to be reviewed.
Redpath did not respond to requests for comment before deadline on Wednesday.
As news broke of the job losses, BHP released two sets of results - one covering exploration and building, the other covering its results for the first nine months of the financial year.
BHP's eight associated mines in the Bowen Basin matched or beat the amount of coal produced quarter-on-quarter to March.
Even so, BHP flagged it would have performed even better had its mines not been struck by bad weather in the first few months of the year.
After years of being buffeted by the Queensland wet season, BHP installed flood mitigation measures this year which it said allowed mines to swiftly return to full production.
The mining also marked the first coal being exported from its new $1.6 billion Daunia mine near Moranbah.
A BHP spokesman said between Daunia's completion and the finishing of its $4.2 billion Caval Ridge by late next year, BHP's exports from the Bowen Basin would increase to 66 million tonnes per year.
It is currently exporting closer to 50 million tonnes a year.
The extension of its Broadmeadow project was also finished in the first months of 2013.
Caval Ridge and the $2.5 billion expansion of Hay Point Coal Terminal south of Mackay are each about 60% complete.