Beltana by a mile

DEJA vu was in order for the 2007 production from Australian longwall mines, with Beltana once again leaving all other mines in its wake with an annual run-of-mine output of 7.63 million tonnes.
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Beltana longwall. Image courtesy of the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Angie Tomlinson

Xstrata's Beltana longwall in New South Wales' Hunter Valley produced 7,088,700 longwall tonnes and 539,600 other tonnes to reach a grand total of 7,628,300t. Beltana has consistently been the top producing mine in Australia since its first full year of production in 2004.

It will be interesting to see whether Blakefield South will retain the top producer mantle when it replaces Beltana in 2010. The dynamics are certainly set to change with so many new longwalls ramping up over the next few years.

Beltana’s closest competitor in 2007 was Oaky Creek No. 1. The Queensland rapid riser, which was placed sixth in 2006 with 3.9Mt, produced 5.69Mt to return to its former glory. The mine has been running two longwall units for about two years, but has returned to one unit in 2008 with predicted output of 5.3Mt.

In third position was sister mine Oaky North with 5.57Mt, well above its 2006 output of 5Mt.

Still in Queensland, Newlands Northern produced 4.54Mt but according to Xstrata 2007 results this week, it has struggled with geological issues. It still managed to make fourth place though, but Xstrata had previously predicted annual production up around the 7Mtpa mark.

Always a consistent performer, Rio Tinto's Kestrel mine produced 4.52Mt during 2007. Kestrel does have big plans ahead, with work beginning on a new development area this year. The mine extension, with a wider face, is predicted to produce 5.7Mtpa beginning in 2012.

Anglo Coal's Moranbah North mine placed number six in the rankings with 4.63Mt despite a troubling year with roof control issues. By mid-2009 the mine will install brand new Joy high-capacity roof supports, two shearers, a new armoured face conveyor system and purpose-built longwall move equipment.

Still with Anglo and in Queensland, the Grasstree mine produced 4.15Mt during 2007, putting it in seventh place, with Centennial's Mandalong mine coming in at number eight with 4.06Mt.

Newcomers to the list for 2007 included Felix Resources' Ashton longwall, which began longwall mining in March 2007 and produced 2.4Mt until the end of the year.

The Bundoora longwall also began in March and produced 1.53Mt. In August Anglo announced that 53 positions at Bundoora would be cut from September 30, in order to manage excess stockpiles of coal.

Newpac No. 1 also made an entrance under Resource Pacific's management, beginning longwall mining in January and producing 1.64Mt. The mine will soon join the Xstrata family of mines with Xstrata on February 29 owning 85% of Resource Pacific following a hostile takeover.

Peabody Energy's North Wambo also made its debut, producing 461,000t after ramping up in October.