Another longwall option in the Sarum project

ONGOING mine planning for the Xstrata-led Sarum coal project in the northern Bowen Basin of Queensland has identified the possibility for two separate longwall mining areas.
Another longwall option in the Sarum project Another longwall option in the Sarum project Another longwall option in the Sarum project Another longwall option in the Sarum project Another longwall option in the Sarum project

The Sarum project, as of Feb 2011.

Blair Price

The Newlands Collinsville Abbot Point joint venture is seeking federal government environmental approval for the project, and provided additional details in an updated application which was made publicly available yesterday.

Located roughly 150 kilometres northwest of Mackay and 20km south of Collinsville, the total project area has been boosted from 17,675 hectares last year to 18,938 hectares.

The tenements consist of Mining Lease Application 10336, Mining Lease 10250 and a new “proposed” MLA area.

The previously identified longwall mining opportunity is on the southern side of the Bowen River, which would target 30 million tonnes from the Goonyella Upper seam for a mine life of six years.

This proposed underground operation would operate at depths of between 200 metres and 300m.

“Detailed design of the underground mine is ongoing and a number of options in relation to access points, roadways, ventilation shafts and drift locations are being assessed,” the JV said in its application.

“As part of ongoing underground mine planning, the area beneath and immediately adjacent to the Bowen River is the subject of a subsidence control zone.

“Detailed subsidence, groundwater and geotechnical studies will be undertaken within this area to support effective mine planning and resource recovery whilst ensuring nil material subsidence and hydrological impact on the Bowen River.”

Open cut mining is being considered for the area north of that river.

Modelling indicates the open pit would extract 220Mt, extend up to 300m deep and have a mine life of 22 years.

“Considering the depth of the resource and the additional resource optimisation work yet to be completed, the option of underground mining the deeper resource component on the northern side of the river will also be considered,” the JV said.

An ongoing exploration program this calendar year will also help provide more information about the extent and quality of the target seams.

While there is still a lot more planning and evaluation ahead, the JV foreshadowed the possibility that this northern longwall mining option could even replace the open cut mining plans.

“As discussed above, potential may also exist for a longwall operation on the northern side of the river, which could potentially be developed instead of, in association with, or independently from, the proposed open pit.

“The feasibility and detailed assessment phase will determine the feasibility of underground operations to the north of the Bowen River.

“Assessment of this option will be included in the environmental impact statement.”

Xstrata previously indicated that the combined Sarum open cut and underground project was targeting a total of 11Mt per annum of raw coal including 4Mtpa from longwall mining and 7Mtpa from open cut mining.

This would be exported through Abbot Point via the existing rail lines with output expected to include semi-soft coking coal and thermal coal.

The open cut operation was slated to start production in 2013, while a feasibility study was scheduled for the first half of 2012.

There several options being considered for the placement of key infrastructure such as the rail loop and coal handling and processing plant.

The JV has applied for federal environmental assessment as the project is likely to impact ecological communities and threatened flora species protected under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The NCA JV is 55% Xstrata, 25% Itochu Coal Resources Australia, 10% ICRA NCA and 10% Sumisho Coal Australia.

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