Pike River at half speed

WHILE Pike River Coal has successfully installed a complete hydro-mining system at its namesake mine in New Zealand, it will run at 50% capacity for “several months” as management focuses on improving roadway development rates.

Blair Price

“The greater constraint in the first six to nine months is roadway development,” Pike said in its quarterly report this morning.

“Hydro-monitor extraction is therefore scheduled to keep pace with development of the mining areas. This is also consistent with current plans.”

Pike recently cut its production forecast from 620,000 tonnes of saleable coking coal to 320,000-360,000t for the current financial year.

The downgrade was made on the back of slower than anticipated development progress which forced planned extraction panels into the following year.

In the meantime Pike has months to ramp up its hydro-mining capability to the full rate of 9000 litres per minute.

Investing for better development rates

Pike plans to purchase a second Sandvik ABM 20 for $NZ5 million in early 2011 as it was pleased with the performance of the first bolter-miner which is averaging development rates of 13 metres per day.

As for its Waratah Engineering continuous miners, the drive on one machine is “being readied for conversion from the troublesome electric system to a hydraulic system”

Other upgrades and engineering redesigns will take the total overhaul bill to between $700,000 and $1 million.

“This machine is expected to be back underground and operational before Christmas,” Pike said.

“This will give the mine a fleet of two ABM20s, one overhauled Waratah continuous miner and the roadheader which has continued to perform reliably.

“A decision on upgrading the second Waratah machine will be made depending on the performance of the first upgraded machine.”

Growing workforce

The mine has a workforce of about 180 with many recruited from outside the country.

Pike has also recently appointed Stephen Ellis as underground mine manager, Robb Ridl as engineering manager and Scott McKay as supply chain manager.

Nine trainee miners have been appointed with Pike providing a 12-week training course.

“After five weeks, trainees go onto shift and work under close supervision on crew while continuing their practical and theoretical training,” the company said.

Pike ended the September quarter with $2.82 million of cash.

Shares in the company are up half a cent to 79.5c this morning.