NSW mines innovating for safety and efficiency

SOUTH32’s Illawarra Metallurgical Coal Operations and Yancoal’s Mount Thorley Warkworth coal complex in New South Wales are finalists in the mining operation of the year category for this year’s NSW Mining Industry and Suppliers’ awards.
NSW mines innovating for safety and efficiency NSW mines innovating for safety and efficiency NSW mines innovating for safety and efficiency NSW mines innovating for safety and efficiency NSW mines innovating for safety and efficiency

Underground at South32's Appin mine in NSW.

The focus of IMC at both its southern coalfield mines at Appin and Dendrobium is long-term sustainability based on more efficient performance and enhanced innovations in safety.

According to the NSW Minerals Council, a good example of this is the challenge of reducing dust exposure while increasing production at the longwall operation at the Dendrobium mine. 

To overcome the challenge IMC implemented and enhanced the leading-edge control and automation operation of the longwall miner, which not only allows for more accurate mining, but moves employees further away from in front of the long wall cutting zone.

This innovation has improved health and safety outcomes and increased production by 18%, with average shear times increasing 10%.

Innovations such as these at IMC mines has led to production increasing from 4.2 million tonnes in 2018 to 6.6Mt in 2019 with an expected 7Mt in 2020.

Importantly, safety has improved with reportable injury frequency rates falling from 22 in 2017 to 16.2 in 2019.

Yancoal acquired the MTW mine in 2017 and set in motion an employee-driven program of cultural change to drive productivity, safety and to secure the future of the mine amid the challenges of a cyclical coal market. 

The cultural change was focused on empowering employees at a grassroot level.

The Yancoal Our-Way program was designed to empower employees to own the drive for improvement in safety, production and efficiency.

Yancoal rolled out the Culture Improvement Collaboration, where every employee was encouraged to take personal responsibility for culture improvement as part of an overall team.

Part of the program was to ensure all employees understood and were involved in numerous innovative improvements such as haul road intersection redesigns, the introduction and improvement of haul truck running lanes, individual employee proficiency training, dump redesign and operations along with a number of other improvements.

The results led to an unprecedented level of transparency and collaborative communication; the establishment of an employee driven "culture vision" including benchmarks for efficiency, communication and whole-of-team excellence; and fostering the potential of those within the business who showed an aptitude for leadership.

At the end of 2019 an Employee Engagement Survey found a 58.4% increase in employee sentiment toward company operations. 

Other improvements included a 30% decrease in absenteeism, a 50% drop in turnover and an increase in permanent workforce from 60% to 90%.