Russian coal miner Belon Group (BLNG.MM) said on Tuesday it will operate at full capacity in the first quarter thanks to agreements with domestic steel makers as well as an unnamed producer in southeast Asia.

Agreements that we have reached allow the company to continue stable work in 2009, despite the unfavourable influence of external factors, the company said in a statement.

Russian coking coal producers have been hard hit by the financial crisis, with steel sector clients delaying payment because of mounting receivables.

Belon and rivals including Raspadskaya (RASP.MM) and Mechel (MTL.N) in November requested government assistance because of the volume of outstanding payments.[ID:nLR547776]

That same month Raspadskaya also said fourth quarter sales would reach only one-third of planned volumes after steel makers slashed orders.[ID:nLC631958]

However, Belon said a long-term contract with Novolipetsk Steel (NLMK.MM) as well as agreements with Metalloinvest, Mechel and Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works (MAGN.MM), which owns a 41.3 percent stake in the Siberain miner, have allowed it to maintain production levels.

Belon added that it has signed agreements to supply steam coal to a range of buyers including Glencore International, Cargill Inc and other clients in eastern Europe. (Reporting by Alfred Kueppers)

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved