White Mining to pioneer Ultra Clean Coal

WHITE Mining could be the world’s first company to commercially employ Ultra Clean Coal (UCC) technologies based on the recent award of a new coal exploration license over the Moolarben area, near Ulan in New South Wales.
White Mining to pioneer Ultra Clean Coal White Mining to pioneer Ultra Clean Coal White Mining to pioneer Ultra Clean Coal White Mining to pioneer Ultra Clean Coal White Mining to pioneer Ultra Clean Coal

The Ashton project

Angie Tomlinson

White Mining beat six other companies to win the exploration license for the 300 million tonne thermal coal deposit.

The winning punch proved to be its proposal to utilize UCC – a move the New South Wales government prized with greenhouse gas emissions high on the Australian government’s agenda.

UCC has virtually all of the mineral contamination removed from it using a chemical leaching process based on caustic leaching similar to the Bayer process used to refine bauxite into alumina.

The use of ultra clean coal fired directly into a gas turbine combined-power plant has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20% compared to conventional coal based systems. Its advantages include greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and minimal ash disposal.

White Mining purchased the world wide patent for UCC technology from CSIRO. The company together with the technical expertise of CSIRO has already done some ground work in the form of a pilot plant. The plant has tested various coals in the Hunter Valley and in collaboration with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has tested coal in a turbine. Some work has already taken place in the combustion area and tonnage samples have been sent to Japan.

White Mining managing director Brian Flannery said the company had forwarded a series of proposals to the state government – including looking at an on-site power station. Flannery said some of the coal extracted from the proposed mine would be exported and some would be sold onto the domestic market.

Flannery said UCC had not been developed to compete with traditional coal-fired power stations.

“The UCC product will not complete with traditional coal-fired power stations – and there is probably nothing that competes with them in terms of cost of energy. But the purpose of UCC is replacement for oil and gas in power generation,” said Flannery.

“Compared with oil and gas it is certainly competitive.”

The proposed mine contains 300 million tonnes of coal suitable for underground extraction and 26 million tonnes for open-cut. Flannery said it was too early to tell if open-cut or underground extraction would come first, or together.

“Knowing that area fairly well, we believe underground mining in that area will be as cost effective as open-cut mining,” he said.

Flannery said part of the company’s assessment would be whether the new operation would extract at the same height as the nearby Ulan longwall, at about three metres, or whether the operation could increase the extraction height.

Exploration will take place over the next three years.

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