Centennial excels despite Newstan

DESPITE the loss of about one million tonnes in production following problems at Newstan and the closure of the Munmorah mine, Centennial Coal managed to increase ROM production in the December quarter by 37%, largely thanks to new output from longwalls Mandalong and Tahmoor.
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Centennial's Mandalong longwall

Angie Tomlinson

Centennial’s New South Wales mines produced 4.2Mt for the December quarter and 8.4Mt on a year-to-date basis, up 37% and 16% on the prior corresponding periods. Centennial’s equity share totalled 3.7Mt for the quarter and 7.2Mt on a YTD basis.


This increase was achieved through the addition of Tahmoor in April 2005 (from Austral Coal) and the commencement of longwall production from Mandalong in January 2005.


Tahmoor ended the calendar year on a high producing 640,000t for the quarter, 9% higher than its previous best under Centennial management and approaching the mine’s record quarterly production of 686,000t.


Work continued to progress the long-term ventilation of the mine, Centennial management already achieving a 250% improvement in airflow to the longwall face. A secondary fan is being installed during February 2006 and a new mine fan will be installed in the 2007 financial year to lift production towards the target of 3.5Mtpa by the 2009 financial year.


Tahmoor management has also “designed out” some inherent engineering problems on the longwall equipment – overall equipment availability has now risen above 95%.


One of Centennial’s new star performers – the Mandalong longwall – returned a record quarterly production of 998,681t. This was despite operating with only one coal clearance system while a second system is completed and commissioned.


During the quarter, Mandalong widened the longwall to 160m and is currently evaluating export infrastructure options.


Centennial said Springvale continued to perform well during the quarter, benefiting from the efficiencies gained from the first of the wider 305m longwall panels and an upgraded armoured face conveyor.


Springvale is currently relocating its longwall to the first of its longer blocks, which are 3.6km long by 305m wide and contain approximately 5Mt of coal. During this changeover, Newstan will upgrade its coal clearance system, the longwall crusher and stage loader.


Angus Place’s longwall changeover was completed in early January, having taken a little longer than planned due to poor floor conditions in the access roadways, hampering relocation.


However, during the longwall changeover, significant upgrades were undertaken to the coal clearance system and longwall equipment, which Centennial says will provide improved reliability and production capability.


Development at Angus Place during the quarter was below expectations, as a result of poor strata conditions. However, Centennial said development of LW940 had not been materially affected, with sufficient lead-time available to ensure longwall continuity in March / April 2007.


Following months of troubles, Newstan returned to normal production in December and, combined with improved development performance during the quarter, Centennial said should be back on track for the remainder of the 2006 financial year. A longwall changeover, including the installation of a new higher-powered armoured face conveyor, is scheduled for April / May this year.


Production rates at the Clarence bord and pillar mine increased, despite variable geological conditions experienced during the quarter, as workplace changes were implemented to improve production consistency.


Centennial anticipated Clarence would return a record profit for the 2006 financial year, benefiting from strong contracted export prices for its low sulphur thermal coal.


During the quarter, development consent was granted for four new lease areas at Clarence, equivalent to 21 years of additional mine life.


Work on Centennial’s major development project – Anvil Hill – continued during the quarter with a detailed review of the geological resource, structure model and coal quality model and negotiations were initiated to select a mining contractor.


Centennial is yet to conclude price negotiations for the 2006 Japanese financial year for its export thermal coal.


Centennial was trading at $A3.83 this morning.