Consultants Survey: Minarco, Mineconsult, Runge

A FULL transcript of Minarco mineconsult's response to Australian Longwall Magazine’s exclusive survey of consultants servicing the underground coal market.
Consultants Survey: Minarco, Mineconsult, Runge Consultants Survey: Minarco, Mineconsult, Runge Consultants Survey: Minarco, Mineconsult, Runge Consultants Survey: Minarco, Mineconsult, Runge Consultants Survey: Minarco, Mineconsult, Runge

Courtesy Runge.

Angie Tomlinson

Q: A number of new mining methods, such as LTCC and wider faces, have ramped up this year in Australia. What are the ramifications of this now and in the long term?

As both methods are generally going to create greater subsidence than conventional longwall faces, both methods are only suited to deposits where subsidence and impacts on groundwater resources are not major drivers.

The mines that are able to utilise the methods will see a reduction in development requirements for the same level of longwall production. In simplistic terms, this will lead to a corresponding reduction in operating costs. However this will be at least partially offset by the increasing complexity of the systems (particularly LTCC) and the associated increased risk levels. Both LTCC and wider faces change the economics with the potential to mine thicker and lower quality seams that result in an equivalent higher recovery per metre of face retreat.

LTCC in particular may have a significant impact on the risk profile of deeper operations with thicker seams. The method certainly provides face stability benefits and these can be critical at increasing depth.

Q: A number of junior and mid-tier coal explorers and producers are currently carrying out exploration, feasibility studies and bringing mines onto line. What does this mean for consultants, and for the Australian industry as a whole?

The junior coal explorers and producers particularly (and to a lesser extent the mid-tier coal explorers and producers) generally lack the personnel to undertake the requisite studies for evaluating new projects and bringing them onstream.

At first glance it would appear that this would provide a considerable amount of work for consultants. However the level of technical assessment required to support commitment of capital to a project varies between companies and many smaller groups often do not have the some internal approval process rigor as larger companies.

The smaller companies tend to be more time focused and typically assess a single mine layout and then move straight into the approvals process, whereas the larger companies are more likely to undertake detailed options studies, sensitivity and risk analyses etc. The additional studies undertaken by the larger companies provide them with a better understanding of the deposit and the project drivers. This can allow for better management of the approvals process, project development and mine operation.

Q: In your eyes what is the most important R&D project (private or publicly funded) happening at the moment and why?

The impact of any particular consultant depends on its business strategy and experience and the willingness of its clients to accept external advice. It is our belief that the larger consulting groups are more frequently being trusted as valued advisors rather than just “body hire” agencies.

The more a consultant understands a client’s business the more value the consultant can add through advice. Minarco-Mineconsult provides a full range of services from pure technical consulting through to strategic corporate advice. It aims to provide expert advice across its “Five Tiers of Service” - Resource Management (Tier 1), Reserve Management (Tier 2), Implementation (Tier 3), Financing (Tier 4) and Corporate (Tier 5).

Being involved from the boardroom level right down to mine site level provides greater scope for impacting on strategic direction of mines and companies.

Q: What progress has been made in improving the way roof falls are managed?

Prevention is undoubtedly the best management tool. Adoption of a systematic approach, incorporating comprehensive support rules, hazard management plans and trigger response plans have all been aimed at preventing the falls in the first place.

Better technologies (such as long tendon installation from the continuous miner) have also emerged for supporting the ground and reducing the likelihood of roof falls. Finally, newer materials (such as Rocsil) and greater levels of experience from the application of older technologies (such as PUR) have reduced the recovery times for falls, as well as drastically reducing safety risks for the operators.

Q: How big an impact are consultants making on the strategic direction of companies and mines as the role of the consultant grows in the face of the continuing skills shortage?

The impact of any particular consultant depends on its business strategy and experience and the willingness of its clients to accept external advice. It is our belief that the larger consulting groups are more frequently being trusted as valued advisors rather than just “body hire” agencies.

The more a consultant understands a client’s business the more value the consultant can add through advice. Minarco-Mineconsult provides a full range of services from pure technical consulting through to strategic corporate advice. It aims to provide expert advice across its “Five Tiers of Service” - Resource Management (Tier 1), Reserve Management (Tier 2), Implementation (Tier 3), Financing (Tier 4) and Corporate (Tier 5).

Being involved from the boardroom level right down to mine site level provides greater scope for impacting on strategic direction of mines and companies.

Q: How have the strict NSW occupational health and safety laws impacted consultants and your clients?

Minarco-Mineconsult has not noticed any significant changes to tasks or work levels as a response to changes in OH&S laws.

Q: With the government promising a shift to “clean coal” what impact will this have on your business and the landscape of Australian coal as a whole?

The impact is likely to be positive, given the rising global demand for energy, particularly in the nearby, rapidly developing Asian economies, which can be supplied by the Australian coal industry.

Clean coal technology will allow the coal industry to compete with other energy sources.

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