West Wallsend progresses conveyor expansion

WORK on a new conveyor infrastructure will allow the West Wallsend mine to lift production levels from 3 million tonnes to 4.5Mt.

Staff Reporter

The Glencore-owned mine, near Newcastle in NSW, recently underwent a strategic review to increase output to annual levels of 4.5Mt run of mine (ROM). At these levels the mine has a 17-year mine life.

Sandvik-owned Voest-Alpine Materials Handling won the contract for the drift and surface conveyor upgrade, which will increase capacity from 1150 tonnes per hour to 2650tph. The contract includes a new Beltreco conveyor belt for the drift as well as a 2500t emergency stockpile featuring an inline tripper on the surface belt.

Considerable work has to be undertaken in the drift, including the change-out of every roller and the installation of additional roof support to support the additional weight of the structure. The belt is being widened from 1200mm to 1400mm but the infrastructure will not be widened: “We can’t erode the current geometry in the drifts. The new conveyor structure cannot be any wider than the current envelope it sits in,” said mine manager, Glen Lewis.

A major challenge will be the mine’s requirement to install the complete system in parallel with the existing system, with minimum disruption to production. All installation work will be carried out on weekends and downtimes, and commissioning is scheduled for December 11, 2001.

The mine is undertaking the upgrade of the underground conveyor system. This will include speed upgrades, and some widening of the conveyor from 1400mm to 1600mm.

At present, a longwall changeout is underway to longwall panel 25. Longwall 26 will be the last panel mined in the mine’s current south-east area. This latter panel will be widened by 8m with five spare chocks West Wallsend has on site.

For longwall 27 tenders are currently out for an extension by a further 25m, which will increase the face to around 165m. The current block dimensions are around 140m in width by around 1100m long. From LW 27 the block lengths will be progressively increased till the length reaches around 3.5km by LW31. Panel alignment has been slightly changed to accommodate an increase in block length.

Development mining in the north-west area has began. The move to this part of the mine was detailed under the new Life of Mine plan developed by Glencore. Lewis said the north-west area was characterised by different geology with decreasing cover and fewer structures.

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