Newlands delivers for Xstrata

NEWLANDS Coal is one of the elite performers in Xstrata Coal’s Queensland stable. Its longwall team has a progressive culture and it is being primed for expansion. By Lou Caruana
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Underground at Xstrata's Newlands mine in Queensland.

Lou Caruana

Newlands Coal is located about 210km west of Mackay, as the road meanders in the northern Bowen Basin and about 35km northwest of the town of Glenden.

The original Newlands mine was developed around the main deposit area in 1983 with satellite deposits being subsequently developed at Eastern Creek, Suttor Creek and Wollombi.

The Upper Newlands seam is the principal one mined.

Open cut operations at Newlands Coal are focused around Eastern Creek (ML4755), Suttor Creek and Wollombi (ML4761) with all open cut coal hauled by truck to the main deposit area for processing at the coal handling and processing plant.

Newlands Coal also includes the Northern underground from which coal is extracted using longwall mining methods.

Coal from the Northern underground is transferred by conveyor to the CHPP run of mine stockpile area.

Xstrata Coal is the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal, with interests in more than 25 operating coal mines, 19 of them in Australia, three complexes in South Africa and one in Colombia.

It employs more than 14,000 people globally (including contractors) – 8000 of them in Australia – and achieved consolidated production of 85 million tonnes of coal in 2011.

Since 2002, Xstrata Coal has generated revenues of $54 billion from its Australian operations and reinvested the entire $54 billion into the Australian economy.

In the past two years it reduced the Australian total recordable injury frequency rate by 46%.

It is the largest coal producer in New South Wales, integrating 19 mines into four main complexes with its major projects being Ulan West and Ravensworth North.

Xstrata is growing, with projects expected to call for another 4500 jobs in Australia.

In Queensland it has six mines, of which Oaky North and Newlands Northern underground are considered to be major contributors to productivity and revenue.

Xstrata global chief executive Mick Davis recently singled out Newlands Coal as being an exemplary operation for the company.

Until the end of 2011, the senior site executive of Newlands Northern underground was Marc Kirsten, an industry veteran with a focus on maximising the productivity and safety of longwall operations.

Kirsten began his career as a mine geologist at Baal Bone colliery in the western coalfields of NSW in the mid-nineties.

He progressed through numerous technical services roles and during this time obtained a masters in mining engineering and a diploma in mine ventilation, including his ventilation officer certification.

Kirsten then moved to the Hunter Valley to work at various operations with Xstrata Coal including Beltana, South Bulga and West Wallsend.

During this time he completed his deputy, undermanager and mine manager certifications.

From 2006 until 2011, Kirsten worked at Newlands Northern underground in Queensland.

He started as the statutory mine manager and spent time heading up technical services and as the mine’s production manager.

In 2009 he took on the role of operations manager before moving onto Xstrata’s Ravensworth underground mine in NSW in 2011.

Under the stewardship of Kirsten and his fellow managers, Newlands Northern underground has delivered to Xstrata in spades.

Total raw coal output in 2010 was 8.2Mt, with longwall face raw coal output at 7.8Mt, on the back of 8.7Mt in 2009.

Production data provided by Coal Services showed Newlands Northern underground was the second most productive longwall in Australia after Xstrata Coal’s Oaky Creek.

It produced a commendable 6.1Mt of ROM production for the 2010-11 financial year.

In a recent presentation to Longwall 2011, Kirsten outlined what he thought drove the mine’s success.

“Maintenance is critical,” he said.

“Big focus on effective maintenance. I’m a strong believer in maintenance. What I won’t do is stop a longwall just for the sake of doing maintenance but maintenance is a very key part of how we operate and it’s about effectively utilising the time you’ve got.

“So define maintenance strategies – why are we stopping and what’s the reason. And engineering solutions, asking ‘can we do some of the maintenance online?’ or ‘do we have to do it offline?’ Those sort of things.”

Newlands Northern underground runs a “seven-on, seven-off roster” that complements its four-and-three maintenance roster, giving it flexibility. The mine has set high standards that are followed rigorously by the longwall crews.

“We have a set of longwall development standards to help maintain consistency in how we operate, it forms part of the mine’s operating system,” Kirsten said.

“Time – monitoring and managing it. Every minute counts. And investigating where we didn’t succeed or where there was an issue, ask the questions.

“Also productivity and engineering. If your conveyor runs at 4500, well what can I do to get to 5500 and how can I drive every last ounce out of the equipment I have?

“Also the longwall face design and how I can utilise it? It might be that I can’t run the shearer fast through the whole section of the face but there might be a 10-metre section I can go a little bit faster. And that little bit counts. When you work enough shears, that little bit counts.”

Kirsten is also a believer in information systems as a way of enhancing productivity and safety.

“It is about producing information from all of the data we collect and making it available to people in a fashion that is usable and focused on what is important,” Kirsten said.

“With the issues related to our roof conditions, operating our longwall supports at an optimum level was important to us, we did a lot of work on information systems.

“Again, it’s about focusing on that information and understanding it and using that to drive the process forward and make the right decisions about what you want to do with the operation,” he said.

The final terms of reference for the environmental impact statement for the Newlands Coal extension project was issued by the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management on January 27.

The underground mining activities would involve an extension of existing longwall activities at the Northern underground mine.

Underground mining would commence in 2013 with a proposed mine life of 13 years, and produce up to 6 million tonnes per annum of ROM coal.

All coal mined from the extension areas would be hauled by truck or transferred by conveyor for processing at the existing CHPP in the Newlands main deposit area.

The extension of the existing Eastern Creek and Northern underground operations into adjacent areas is necessary to maintain overall coal qualities and volumes at Newlands Coal.

Published in the March 2012 Australian Longwall Magazine