The Carborough Downs mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin reached 367,000 tonnes of metallurgical coal production in the December quarter, a 27% improvement on the previous three months.
The record run came despite a longwall move during the period, while the mine had previously made two moves on its first block.
“The increase in its yield on this quarter contributed to a higher output and its best ever quarterly performance,” Vale said of Carborough Downs.
But for 2010, the mine produced 1.22 million tonnes, well short of expectations as the operation faced treacherous geotechnical conditions.
Nevertheless, Vale remains confident the mine will ramp up to its nominal capacity of 4.8Mt per annum in 2011.
Last year was Vale’s strongest coal mining performance as it hit 6.9Mt from its Australian and Colombian operations, with 3.06Mt of metallurgical coal and the rest as thermal coal.
The Integra Coal operations in New South Wales produced 1.15Mt of met coal and 310,000t of thermal coal in 2010, although total production slipped 13% to 353,000t from the September to December quarters.
Total annual coal production from the Integra open and underground operations was down 23% year-on-year to 1.46Mt.
The El Hatillo mine in Colombia managed to overcome bad weather conditions in the December quarter and produced a total of 2.99Mt thermal coal in 2010, up 162% year-on-year.
The impact of wet weather in Queensland during the December quarter resulted in 42 days of lost production for Vale’s operations.
Growing coal ambitions
Vale aims to reach 42Mtpa of coal production by 2015, with this growth to be underpinned by its Moatize project in Mozambique along with “advanced” exploration projects in the Bowen Basin.
The Moatize mine is expected to kick off mid-year, and is targeting 11Mtpa of production including 8.5Mtpa of hard coking coal under first-stage development.
Vale has budgeted $US422 million of expenditure for the project this year with $US161 million slated for work on stage 2 developments to add another 11Mtpa of total production in the March quarter of 2013, although this expansion remains subject to board approval.
The Ellensfield longwall project in Queensland plans to use the nearby Carborough Downs wash plant and is targeting 4.5Mtpa of production (52% hard coking coal) with first coal in the first half of 2015.
With a capital expenditure budget of $US47 million for 2011, the project is moving through the state government’s environmental approval processes.