Longwall production grows despite mine closures

PRODUCTION from Australia's longwall mines went up by only a modest 1.2% for the full year period ended June 2002, largely due to the closure of four mines during the year.

Staff Reporter

Coal Services have just released the latest statistical review of production from Australia’s longwall mines. Full year production figure for Australia’s longwall mines was 85.132 million tonnes raw coal (including development tonnage) for the year ended June 2002.

This is only 1.2% more than was produced during the same period last year but is lower than the 85.128Mt produced in the 12 months to December 2001.

The main reason for the decline is that while 33 mines accounted for the total tonnage over the year, four of these mines ceased production this year, namely Alliance, Bellambi West, Kenmare, Moonee and Wyee. Xstrata’s United mine in NSW converted from bord and pillar operations to longwall mining in May. This means Australia has 30 operating longwall mines, including the newly commissioned Glennies Creek operation in NSW, which is not yet reflected in the Coal Services stats. By December this year Tower and Wambo are likely to have finished mining.

The top four producers - all Queensland mines and all stepping over the 5Mt mark - are MIM Holding’s Oaky North, Anglo Coal’s Moranbah North, Rio Tinto’s Kestrel, and MIM’s Newlands operation. The next two top producers are NSW-based Xstrata’s Ulan, and Queensland’s BHP Billiton Mistubishi (BMA) mine Crinum.

The big news among the top ranks this year is of course the excellent performance of MIM’s big performer, Oaky North, which set a new Australian production benchmark with 7.054Mt ROM (6.716Mt longwall coal), up 26.6% on its 5.571Mt record last year.

Last year only two mines produced over the 5Mt mark but this year four mines managed the feat, though Oaky North’s record output is a remarkable 34% (or 1.8Mt) ahead of next best mine Moranbah North. Moranbah produced 5.264Mt (4.860Mt longwall coal), followed by Kestrel 5.175Mt (4.855Mt longwall coal), and Newlands 5.159Mt (4.736Mt longwall coal). Kestrel’s output was an 18.9% improvement on its output last year and Newlands improved by 36.1%.

The gap between the 5Mt plus mines and the next best performers in the 3-4Mt group is also interesting to note. Number five position is held by Ulan with 3.737Mt, down 5.3% on the previous year, closely followed by Crinum with 3.734Mt, down 24.5%.

Other mines in the 3-4Mt category were Capcoal’s Southern with 3.603Mt, a 19.4% lift on the previous year; South Bulga’s 3.549Mt, down 15.7%; Baal Bone’s 3.164Mt, up 1.7%; Wambo’s 3.164Mt, up 4.4%; and Newstan’s 3.142Mt, up 71%.

The company which controlled the most longwall tonnage is Xstrata at 16.424Mt of the total, from six longwall mines. MIM’s three mines pumped out 13.833Mt while the four BHP Billiton Illawarra mines produced 8.507Mt. Including BMA mine Crinum, BHP controlled 12.242Mt of longwall coal during the period.

Listed company Centennial Coal, which recently secured the purchase of the NSW government owned Powercoal mines, now manages 8.093Mt of longwall coal, including the Springvale operation.

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