The new mine has experienced a series of setbacks during development over the past two years but there are signs the hard work will soon pay off.
Two roadway tunnels are being driven in the first panel for hydro-mining, which has a coal seam of 9-10 metres thick.
The two roadways are scheduled for completion in August and Pike notes the ribs and roof are standing up well, while the coal is “cutting very well”.
Pike has leased a re-conditioned Sandvik ABM 20 continuous miner along with contract staff for about $4 million for a 12-month period.
Using this machine allows the company to get the electric drives replaced by hydraulic drives for the two continuous miners it owns to reduce future down time.
Pike expects to have its roadheader and two continuous miners cutting coal from early August while another continuous miner will join the fray in early 2011.
Pike noted some of the advantages of the ABM 20.
“The 100-tonne ABM20 continuous miner cuts the full roadway width in a single pass, whereas existing machines require two passes to complete the 5.5 metre wide roadway,” the company said.
“The ABM20 has simultaneous cutting and roof-bolting abilities. The machine works best in long straight runs and is expected to achieve better roadway development advance rates in those conditions.”
For July, the daily advance rates have reached 8m a day, up 2m per day from the expectations back in April.
Pike also changed its seven-day development roster to a five-day one in order to provide more maintenance and training on the weekends.
To prepare for hydro-mining, large-scale excavation work was completed for the pit bottom during the recent quarter.
Water storage areas are in place in the pit bottom, including sumps and hydro pumps.
Pike still expects to start hydro-mining its first panel in mid-September.
In the mean time the second shipment of 20,000t of hard coking coal extracted during development is scheduled to leave to for Gujarat NRE in India next month.
Pike said the shipload was worth about $NZ6 million with a slight discount applied because of higher ash levels than specified.
The total workforce at Pike is more than 160 with another 15 expected when hydro-mining kicks off.
Pike has observed softening demand for hard coking coal from China with spot prices around $US180-190/t free-on-board.
Pike’s Australia-listed shares were unchanged at 80c yesterday.