New mines & projects in NSW - Coal
Higher coal prices have stimulated investment in the NSW coal industry with a number of new mining developments or major expansions to existing mines proceeding to development.
In the Hunter coalfield new coal mine developments, along with significant mine expansions are likely to result in continued production increases from this coalfield in the medium term.
Xstrata has received approval for the expansion of the Narama and Ravensworth mines that will extend existing operations and allow the extraction of 16 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of run-of-mine (ROM) coal a year for up to 29 years. The Ravensworth Mining Complex, approved in February 2011, will also see the upgrade of the Ravensworth Coal Terminal and Coal Handling and Preparation Plant to allow up to 20 Mtpa of ROM coal to be processed by the complex. As well as supplying thermal coal to Macquarie Generation, coal will be railed to the Port of Newcastle for export.
Following approval by the NSW Government in December 2008 to develop an underground longwall mine at its Mt Arthur open cut coal complex, BHP Billiton received further approvals in December 2010 for the Mt Arthur open cut expansion project. The project will increase ROM production at Mt Arthur Coal Operations to a maximum of 36 Mtpa.
Newcastle and Gloucester Coalfields
In the Newcastle coalfield, a number of underground mines are likely to cease operation in the short to medium term, due to lack of reserves. Most of these operations are relatively small. However, despite the expected closures, production from the Newcastle coalfield is forecast to increase with a number of proposed new coal mine developments and mine extensions.
Centennial Coal received approval for the Awaba Coal Project in May 2011, which will extend the life of the Awaba Colliery until 2015. In addition to extracting coal from existing approved mining areas, the project includes extending the Stage 3 mining area and developing the East B mining area to produce a total of 880,000 tonnes of ROM coal per annum.
The Austar coal mine near Cessnock is using a promising new mining method, Longwall Top Coal Caving (LTCC), to greatly increase the recovery of coal from thick underground coal seams. If this method proves successful it would significantly increase the recovery of thick seams in Australia, increasing underground coal reserves. The mine is owned by Yancoal Australia Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Yanzhou Coal Mining Company Limited, one of the largest coal mining companies in China.
In September 2009 the NSW Government granted approval for Austar’s Stage 3 project which includes extracting coal from 12 longwall panels using LTCC and new pit top facilities in an area east of existing operations. In December 2010 approval was granted to extract one additional longwall panel using LTCC, with a maximum extraction height of 6.5m.
In the Gunnedah coalfield, a number of small to large sized coal mines are likely to commence operation in the next few years, with the potential for a couple of larger operations to commence within the next decade.
In November 2007, the NSW Government granted approval for Narrabri Coal’s Stage 1 proposal for a new underground mine approximately 20 km south-east of Narrabri. Construction on the mine commenced in early 2008. Narrabri Coal lodged a further major project application in July 2008 for Stage 2. Stage 2 involves the establishment of longwall mining operations and an increase in maximum production from 2.5 to 8.0 Mtpa. Approval was granted in July 2010.
The NSW Government granted approval for Whitehaven Mining’s Rocglen (formerly Belmont) Coal Mine Project, 25 km north of Gunnedah, in April 2008. The mine was given approval to produce up to 1.5 Mtpa of ROM coal, creating up to 60 full time jobs. In September 2011 the Rocglen Coal Extension Project was approved, allowing expansion of the open cut pit to access an additional 4.5 to 5 million tonnes of coal.
The Werris Creek Mine Extension Project was approved by the NSW Government in October 2011. The proposal includes extending the existing open cut pit, which will increase the maximum coal production rate from 2 Mtpa of ROM coal to 2.5 Mtpa. The amount of coal able to be transported by road to domestic markets will be increased from 50,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) to 100,000 tpa.
Shenua Energy was granted an exploration licence for the Watermark coal exploration area in the Gunnedah Basin, following a competitive Expression of Interest process in October 2008. The Watermark coal exploration area is located approximately 35 km south-east of Gunnedah. The deposit is expected to contain shallow resources of domestic and export quality thermal coal, with in situ coal resources expected to exceed 1 billion tonnes.
The development of some large projects over the next few years is forecast to continue the upward trend in coal production from the Western Coalfield.
Coal mining operations commenced at Moolarben Coal in May 2010, following the granting of approval for Stage 1 in September 2007. Yancoal Australia Pty Ltd is now proceeding through the development assessment and approvals process for Stage 2 of the project. The proposal includes extracting coal from an area east of the approved Stage 1 project, using both open cut and longwall underground mining methods over a 24 year mine life. At full production, the Moolarben Coal Complex will have the capacity to produce 17 Mtpa of ROM coal and employ approximately 450 personnel.
Ulan Coal Mines Limited was granted approval in December 2011 for its proposed Ulan Coal Continued Operations. Ulan Coal Mines will extend its current open cut operations, as well as concurrently mine the approved Ulan No. 3 underground and approved Ulan West areas under a modified mine plan. The $500 million project proposes to increase saleable coal production to 20 Mtpa and increase direct employment by 270 persons.
Centennial Coal is proceeding with development of its Airly underground coal mine, 42 km north-west of Lithgow. Construction on the $100 million mine project commenced in early 2009 and first coal production occurred in 2010. The mine is expected to produce around 1.6-1.8 Mtpa of coal for a mine life of 20 years and is predicted to create an estimated 127 full time direct jobs.
Centennial Coal was also granted approval in September 2010 for its Charbon Coal Project, 3 km south of Kandos. The $8 million project includes the continuation of mining operations at the existing Charbon underground mine and Southern open cut mine, extending mining operations for a further six years.
An extension of the Angus Place Coal Project was approved in August 2011. The project includes the development of two longwall panels that will increase the annual extraction rate from 3.5 Mtpa to 4 Mtpa and extend the life of the mine for two years until 2014.
Enhance Place Pty Ltd was given approval for the Pine Dale Mine – Yarraboldy extension in February 2011. The project includes extending the open cut mining area by 24 hectares (ha) to the north of the existing Pine Dale coal mine facilities, accessing an additional 800,000 tonnes of ROM coal. The project also involves the utilisation of some existing infrastructure at the mine site and the rehabilitation of the disturbed areas within the mine.
BHP Billiton received approval from the NSW Government for the $367 million Bulli Seam Project in December 2011. The project will involve the continuation of underground mining operations at the Appin Mine and West Cliff Colliery, extending the life of the operations by approximately 30 years. Continued development of underground mining operations within existing and new mining leases will facilitate a total ROM coal production rate of up to 10 Mtpa. The project also includes the upgrade of the existing West Cliff Washery to support the increased ROM coal production and continued generation of electricity by the existing Appin-Tower Power Project, utilising coal bed methane drained from the underground mine workings.
Gujarat NRE Coking Coal Limited received approval for the consolidation and continuation of mining operations at Gujarat NRE No. 1 Colliery in November 2011. Gujarat anticipates construction of the surface facility upgrades will provide 65 full time equivalent jobs, with the mine operation permanently employing 350 people. The estimated capital cost of the expansion is approximately $250 million.