ACARP finds second wind

A NEW lease on life has been granted to leading coal researcher Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP), with all participating coal contributors agreeing to a five year extension of the program.

Staff Reporter

ACARP has invested A$12 million per annum in areas relevant to coal production and is funded by all Australian black coal producers via a levy of 5 cents per tonne of product coal.

In its recently released annual report, ACARP said all contributors had endorsed the continuation with the final contractual steps being implemented to ensure an extension to the program beyond 30 June 2005.

Executive director Ross McKinnon said many factors had contributed to the endorsement of a further extension.

“One of these was the ability to present a summary of the independently conducted assessment of ACARP investment performance. Others included the recognition that industry representatives fully own every face of the program and that ACARP has been a major contributor to raising the level of technology development and researcher competency available to the Australian coal industry to be the best in the world across all areas,” he said.

McKinnon also pointed to greater industry participation in broader sustainability and greenhouse gas issues, evident in the formation on the recently formed Sustainability Task Group.

Through ACARP coal companies have a say in three leading research efforts – the Cooperative Research Centre for Coal in Sustainable Development (CSD), the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) and the Centre for Low Emission Technology (cLET).

Over the next seven years these centres will receive just over $8 million from ACARP coffers. Importantly, this ensures the coal industry has a voice in major research efforts that have federal government support and that are worth many millions of dollars, effectively leveraging coal industry spend by almost three times.

ACARP has traditionally focused on coal production and its consequences at the mine site. The move to a greater research involvement in greenhouse gas challenges recognises the challenges facing coal mining globally.

Other issues raised by ACARP included its scholarship scheme and the longwall automation project. The latter project is due to be completed at the end of 2004 with significant wins reported in the automation of components of the longwall system.

Another strategic project highlighted was the impact of coal mine operation and closure on local communities. Unlike traditional technical ACARP projects, this project utilises social sciences as an integral part of the work program. Four projects were approved in this area in 2003 with a total funding of $548,461.

Underground projects received $4.667 million in funding in 2003-04. ACARP said the primary goal of this program was to improve mine safety towards zero fatalities through strengthening ventilation and gas management technology, minimising risks from fires and explosions, advancing emergency response technologies and proactively addressing workplace health risks.

A second priority was to assist mine operators adopt new and innovative technologies that offer lower operating costs. Improved exploration methods and better management of the risks associated with ground control will enhance the ability to deal with difficult mining conditions.

Open-cut projects received $3.397 million, coal preparation $1.805 million, technical market support $1.013 million and greenhouse gas mitigation $689,000.

“The next five year program will build on the successes to date and enable the Australian coal industry to continue to be a technology leader,” McKinnon said.