Things are just too different to assume Western management systems will function in China the same way they do back home. Different rules apply to business ventures that may seem alien to Westerners, largely because of the differences embedded in a culture that’s thousands of years old. As Hite said, certain things take longer.
Hite is the general manager of the new Daning mine, located near Jincheng, in the Southeast corner of Shanxi Province, about 370 miles southwest of Beijing. Daning is owned and managed by Shanxi Asian American-Daning Energy Company (SAADEC), 56% owned by Asian American Coal, Inc. (AACI), with Jincheng Daning Coal Company (36%) and Shanxi Coal Transportation and Sales Corporation (8%).
AACI’s largest shareholders are Evan Energy Company, Resource Capital Funds, and Banpu Public Company Limited. AACI’s focus as an investment company is continued development of coal and coal-related energy projects in China. This was the first time in modern times that a foreign-led group has obtained a coal mining license from the Chinese government.
The group is developing the new Daning longwall mine to start production in the second quarter of 2005 and modelled on Western mining methods.
The recent awarding of tenders for longwall equipment involved the input of all SAADEC’s various partners, working through a bid management committee. The process took longer than anticipated, complicated by different negotiating styles and language barriers.
In the end the package ordered included a Joy 7LS shearer, DBT 5.5m shields, Longwall Associates AFC, Repower Mining International pump station and Ampcontrol electrical package.
While DBT, Joy and Ampcontrol have enjoyed major success in China in the last few years, the deal was the first in Asia for the West Virginia-based Longwall Associates. According to Hite, the bid committee was unanimous in its decision to go with the American designed AFC: “We felt technically the way the pan is made and the layout of the head and tail drive best met our needs.”
Ampcontrol’s contract is the first turnkey longwall electrical contract won by an Australian company in China. The 6MVA substation with ten 3.3kV outlets is believed to be the largest single transformer ever used in a Chinese longwall mine.
The DBT roof supports are similar to those supplied to the nearby Sihe mine and incorporate a double flipper to protect against the coal coming off the face in large slabs.
Queried on how many people he expects to man the face, Hite said this had not been finalized yet but would probably be slightly higher than numbers in a US longwall mine, with an additional worker stationed to watch the transfer point at the headgate. Expectations of how many people can reasonably man an underground coal mine are another source of interesting ‘culture clashes’ and as yet not completely resolved at Daning. Chinese mines are typically manned with various roles assigned to people that do not exist in Western mines; many of the extra required positions are mandated by Chinese law.
In the setting up of the Daning operation management has drawn on expertise from Western suppliers from the USA, Germany, the UK and Australia. For example, through agent Wadam Industries, Australian company Valley Longwall Drilling, who are leaders in in-seam directional drilling, have had their prototype rig on site since 2003. One of the company’s Series 1000 Directional Drilling systems have been delivered to Daning – the second shipped in May this year and will arrive on site in June- following on from some notable successes last year.
The company completed the first ever 1000m directional horizontal in-seam gas drainage and exploration hole in China. In addition, over 65,000m of directional in-seam drilling was completed in 10 months by the local Daning drill operators, Valley Longwall Personnel assisted with the on site training for 7 months
Daning has been very pleased with the results of the in-seam drilling. In the mine’s first longwall panel, 50-52% of the gas will be reduced, taking the gas make down to 8m3/t. Hite hopes to get this down further to around 4m3/t by the time mining kicks off next year. The in-seam drilling also identified a sand channel intrusion in the first panel which resulted in the first panel being shortened to 600m.
This panel contains around 600,000t while the remaining panels in the mine’s first domain area contain around 4.3Mt per panel. Panel width for the first seven years is a nominal 225m.
Mining will target the No 3 seam at a depth of 300m, with minimum faulting. Longwall mining will target the middle 3.8m thick section of the 4.7m thick seam, leaving about 1.5m of higher ash coal in both the roof and floor.
The strata control plan has been designed in conjunction with local experts with input from American consulting company, Marshall Miller & Associates. The roadways are supported with 3m point anchored bolts and 9m cable bolts offset in each row. Cuttable fibre-glass bolts are used in the ribs.
See Friday's ILN for Part 2 of this article, in which Hite outlines some of the safety and people practices introduced at Daning.