Kestrel production ramp-up boosts Rio's figures

RIO Tinto’s Kestrel longwall mine in Queensland was the company’s star hard coking coal performer, with its fourth-quarter production soaring 300% on the previous corresponding period with the help of the newly-completed $2 billion extension project.
Kestrel production ramp-up boosts Rio's figures Kestrel production ramp-up boosts Rio's figures Kestrel production ramp-up boosts Rio's figures Kestrel production ramp-up boosts Rio's figures Kestrel production ramp-up boosts Rio's figures

Kestrel South's pink shearer. Image courtesy of Rio Tinto.

Lou Caruana

The mine, which produced 608,000 tonnes in the quarter, had its life extended 20 years with the project expansion, which officially opened in October.

Construction work for Kestrel’s mine life extension project started in 2008 and the resulting Kestrel South longwall operation is expected to hit its full capacity by the end of 2014, averaging 5.7Mtpa of production over the next two decades.

Notably, the EL3000 Caterpillar shearer on the 375m longwall, rated at 5000tph, was painted pink as part of a joint partnership with the McGrath Foundation to support breast cancer patients and their families.

Overall Rio Tinto Coal Australia’s hard coking coal production from its Kestrel and Hail Creek mines was up by 23% to 2.2Mt for the quarter.

Coal recovery work at Hail Creek has been successfully completed following a geotechnical low wall failure experienced in July, Rio said in its quarterly statement. There were also reduced impacts from maintenance and upgrade stoppages.

Thermal coal was 9% lower for the quarter at 5.497Mt but its 2013 production figure of 22.4Mt wsa 10% higher than 2012.

“The substantial production increase was delivered through a transformation program of productivity improvements, the completion of brownfield mine developments and the ramp up of the Clermont thermal coal mine,” the company said.

Four mines – Hunter Valley Operations, Mount Thorley Warkworth, Bengalla and Clermont– achieved annual records.

On October 25, Rio Tinto reached a binding agreement for the sale of its 50.1% interest in the Clermont Joint Venture to GS Coal, a company jointly owned by Glencore Xstrata and Sumitomo Corporation, for $1.015 billion. The transaction is expected to complete this quarter.

Semi-soft and thermal coal production in the fourth quarter was lower than the same period last year.

This resulted from mine sequencing at Mount Thorley Warkworth and Hunter Valley Operations as well as from the closure of the Blair Athol mine in November 2012, which is now in the process of being sold as announced on October 3.