The best of the west

THE secret behind the amazing coal output of the longwall mines of China’s major mining company, Shendong Coal, is simple - adopt proven mining methods and buy the world’s best available equipment.
The best of the west The best of the west The best of the west The best of the west The best of the west

Wang An, president/vice chairman, Shendong Group

Staff Reporter

Speaking at the MINExpo education session last month, Shendong president Wang An outlined the company’s current achievements and future aspirations.

Shendong, a subsidiary of major company Shenhua Group, operates nine mines (five longwalls) which produced an output of 73.84 million tons in 2003.

The top three longwall mines each achieved 10 million tons.

The focus of mining activities is the Shendong region, 800 kilometres west of Beijing, where the company controls 31,000 square kilometres containing 223 billion tonnes of coal, with 34Bt proven reserves.

Wang said the region was blessed with simple geology that is ideal for longwall mining. Seams average 2-6m in thickness, are nearly horizontal and covered by overburden of around 200m.

In 2003 the company’s two biggest longwall mines -Daliuta and Yujialing - produced excellent results. Daliuta produced 10.94Mt while Yujialing produced 11.62mt. Wang said this represented an average capital investment of US$5 per tonne.

Shendong’s productivity has increased profoundly – in 1998 output measured 13.96 tons per man shift. In 2003 output measured 100t/manshift. The best monthly output from a single longwall face is 1.033Mt. In 2004, Wang said six mines were expected to achieve 10 million tons.

A focus on safety has delivered excellent results and for the first eight months of the year fatality rates for the group are 0.017/Mt, well below the rest of China’s coal industry.

Wang said from the beginning Shendong took a different route from other Chinese mining companies. Its successful business model was to focus on the rapid development of large-scale efficient operations. This enabled the company’s vast mining complex, developed over the last 17 years, to produce 73.84Mt in 2003, up 22.2Mt compared to 2002 output.

Shendong undertook a close examination of Chinese coal mining operations and Western mines to model the best world practice, based on local conditions.

“This has caused evolutionary change in the Chinese coal industry in terms of size, organization, equipment and concept,” Wang said.

A new (for China) construction method was developed using continuous miners to drive multiple-entry mains development with large cross sections.

A simplified mine layout was adopted with the number of panels minimized. All panels run off the mains with drifts used for the development and entries bolted. Minimal dipping in the seams allowed for the use of trackless rubber-tyred vehicles.

A move to mine wide automation and a reduction in manpower continues to be an important operating cornerstone with Wang attributing a 22% efficiency improvement to these changes. He said all mines can be operated remotely which has facilitated the move from labour intense mining to hi-tech mining.

Wang said at the moment the 10Mt per annum mines operate with 300 people but the company has under construction a new 10Mtpa mine which will be manned by 100 people.

Other key factors in Shendong’s business model have been a focus on meeting customer specifications and the continuous upgrade of longwall equipment.

For the future, Wang said a greater effort between Shendong and international mining equipment suppliers would be required to continue developing the equipment and facilities to support the burgeoning industry.

The company is poised to produce over 100Mt in 2005, 150Mt in 2010 and 200Mt in 2020 he said.