People, engineering and strategic planning issues are the three main issues currently under examination for the future of the four mines.
Previously, two general managers were responsible for the five Illawarra mines Cordeaux, Appin, Tower, West Cliff and Elouera. In the new role Allan is responsible for the four operating Illawarra collieries following the April closure of Cordeaux.
With the increased flexibility across all operations Allan said his primary goal will be to consolidate the operations and develop repeatability across the organisation. This will be at all levels, from strategic planning, maintenance regimes, day-to-day operational practice at each mine, to the training and development of employees.
An engineering review of existing plant and equipment is currently underway to allow management to develop strategies about whether to repair and maintain equipment or recapitalise.
"At present we don't have a clear strategy in place for service, maintenance, overhauls, and replacement of equipment," Allan said.
Allan said part of the strategic engineering review will be an evaluation of the 12CM12 continuous miners, following the recent purchase of a Kenmare 12CM12 and shuttle car.
It is likely that as the Illawarra Collieries consolidate their operations, equipment and spare parts purchases will be done more on a group approach. An increase in partnering alliance type agreements with OEMs is also highly likely.
Another area of current focus is a program of fill-in exploration over current lease areas. This will include a series of diamond drill holes and seismic work to provide greater certainty for ongoing mine planning.
Palaris Mining Systems was recently contracted to carry out a strategic review of the mines, looking in particular at the region of Appin, Tower and Westcliff.
"Their brief is to look at a three to five year plan and how we might maximize longwall production out of the three mines, considering the surface and geological constraints," Allan said.
One possibility will be to consolidate Appin and Tower's coal clearance system. Tower and Cordeaux shared a transport loop but with Cordeaux's closure, Tower's coal transport costs have increased.
Another operational area to be examined will be how contractors are used, and what costs are contractor related. Allan said some rationalization of contractors was likely. Allied Mining is currently carrying out 5km of development at Westcliff, using place changing for the first time. Allan said the technique was being assessed and so far, the results were encouraging.
Allan said an important area of focus will be a re-emphasis on training and development of employees within the business.