BMA growing in Bowen Basin

BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance has filed an environmental impact statement for its $A4 billion greenfield Caval Ridge open cut coking coal project in the northern Bowen Basin, pushing the tonnage targets up and the start date back two years to 2013.
BMA growing in Bowen Basin BMA growing in Bowen Basin BMA growing in Bowen Basin BMA growing in Bowen Basin BMA growing in Bowen Basin

BMA's development projects in the Bowen Basin.

Blair Price

Current coal demand has played a role in shifting back the schedule for mining at Caval Ridge but has not stopped BHP from working on project development during the ongoing global financial crisis, as it advances its Bowen Basin Growth Project.

“We are continuing to progress the statutory and owner approvals for our growth projects,” a BHP spokesperson told ILN.

“In keeping with the way we have always run our business, all our operations and projects are under continual review, taking into account a range of investment parameters, including market conditions.”

Pending government feedback, the spokesperson said BMA hoped to present the EIS for Caval Ridge to the community in the coming months.

Given the unexpected spikes in coking coal demand from China this year, the spokesperson did not comment on how this might affect BMA but indicated that demand would be covered in BHP’s quarterly production report, due out July 22.

“While BMA continues to see good growth opportunities, it is reviewing project scope and delivery timeframes to best position the company for future market demand,” the spokesperson said.

The 50:50 joint venture between BHP and Mitsubishi Development, located southeast of Moranbah and north of BMA’s Peak Downs mine, is slated to produce 8 million tonnes per annum of high-quality hard coking coal, up from 5.5Mtpa under previous plans.

Caval Ridge has a planned mine life of 30 years with operations expected to employ 495, while the 22-month construction period starting in 2010 is estimated to employ 1200 workers with a new coal handling preparation plant to be built onsite.

First coal is now expected in 2013 and will initially be railed to BMA’s Hay Point Coal Terminal.

Daunia and Goonyella expansion

Having already filed the EIS for the Daunia project, the BMA spokesperson told ILN some support infrastructure works on areas neighbouring the project lease were expected to be complete by the end of the month, with further construction to start up after the necessary approvals.

Construction for the project is expected to employ 450, while operations will have a workforce of 300 once the mine starts up next year.

Meanwhile, the Goonyella Riverside expansion was initially aiming to lift production to 8Mtpa, but has now been upgraded to produce 9.5Mtpa.

Construction will take place over 2010-11 and employ 900 workers.

When first coal is produced in 2013, the operation is expected to employ 700 workers.

The growth project also includes plans to build a new larger airport in the vicinity of Moranbah to meet the needs of a larger fly-in, fly-out workforce.

Overall, the three complete projects will reach a total tonnage of 21.5Mtpa, employ 2550 construction workers and provide 1495 mining jobs.

Investment banks Goldman Sachs and Macquarie are both forecasting premium coking coal to reach $US140/t in benchmark negotiations next year.

BMA set the benchmark for the commodity at $129/t this year, down from unprecedented levels of $300/t achieved in 2008.