Cumnock closes after ten years

XSTRATA's Cumnock longwall mine is the most recent Australian operation to shut down.

Staff Reporter

Located in the Upper Hunter Valley, 105 kilometres north-west of Newcastle, Cumnock was originally mined as an underground bord and pillar operation from 1951. The mine converted to longwall mining in 1984.

The Cumnock longwall was designed to produce about 2.5 million tonnes per annum from the longwall. Cumnock produced 2.066Mt (ROM) in the 1999 calendar year, 2.745Mt in 2000 and 1.905Mt in 2001.

Historic workings in the Liddell Seam, some 30m below the Lower Pikes Gully Seam disrupted mining in 1999. The presence of a hard dyke and weak floor conditions have been ongoing problems at the mine and have in the past caused floor heave and other problems.

Cumnock Coal Limited, majority owned by Xstrata, completed a drilling programme in late 2002, early 2003, to assess the long-term viability of the mine plan. As a result of the review, Xstrata announced that underground mining would cease by December as a result of these adverse geological conditions.

“Xstrata Coal, Cumnock’s major shareholder, acquired its initial interest in the Company back in 1995, some eight years ago. Since then, Xstrata has also provided significant financial support to Cumnock,” said Peter Coates, chief executive Xstrata Coal and managing director Cumnock Coal.

“Whilst it is very disappointing to see the underground mine close and employees lose their jobs, I am comforted by the fact that due to Xstrata Coal’s financial support to date we have been able to extend the mine’s life and ensure the continuity of operations and employment,” he said.

Coates said all employee entitlements would be met in full.

“Following today, the next phase in Cumnock’s history will be realised with the continuation of the open cut operations and the coal preparation plant,” he said.

Lawrie Ireland, operations manager Cumnock Coal, said, “I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the contribution of all of Cumnock’s employees, both past and present, over its 10 years of underground operation. I would also like to thank everyone for their support - not only during the last 12 months which has been a challenging time for all of us, but throughout the history of this mine.

“Everyone has worked very hard to ensure the wind-up of the underground mining operations has been completed in a timely and, most importantly, safe fashion.”