KCR - a consortium comprising private equity manager EMR Capital and PT Adaro Energy - took clear and well-defined steps to change Kestrel's culture to one of high performance and high safety when it acquired the mine from Rio Tinto in March 2018.
Kestrel has improved its annual production in 2019 by 80% over the previous corresponding period to 2.63 million tonnes.
Coal handling and preparation plant processing grew 60% to 8.8Mt and underground development improved 75% to 21km.
The mine also enjoyed a record rate single longwall ramp improvement to cut 1Mt in 36 days.
Spence told Australia's Mining Monthly the mine set clear and aggressive targets, and reduced the bureaucratic workload that had been placed on the site when it was part of a large multi commodity company.
"The business was restructured and simplified, with key roles being filled by highly capable, technically proficient and driven individuals," he said.
"The focus of everyone was changed to emphasise the value adding operations - providing support and leadership to frontline supervisors, superintendents and coal face operators, listening to the needs of the workforce and working to reduce the frustrations they were impeded by.
"The goal is to inspire our whole organisation to see what can be achieved by reducing variation and waste in our processes, then locking in the improvement on a foundation of robust standards."
Spence said innovation at the mine came from bottom up, driven by personnel close to the operations.
"The business improvement and operating strategy is based on lean business principles utilising the people at the coal face to identify opportunity and enact continuous improvement," he said.
"While this is a form of innovation, and many innovative ideas are implemented from these processes, significant technical changes and innovation are enacted by capable support and engineering staff as a result of employing the right people to identify and implement the easier solutions."
Kestrel's Caterpillar longwall set a record with a single longwall ramp improvement to cut 1 million tonnes in just 36 days.
"The record ramp-up occurred due to the fact improvements in operational standards in both coal clearance and longwall achieved during the previous longwall had been locked into how we do business," Spence said.
"We ensured we were fully commissioned before we commenced.
"We established a key site improvement project to optimise ramp up and ensured good plan do check and adjust processes were in place to capture our learnings. Post implementation reviews were conducted to identify improvements to our processes."
Spence said that in regards to hours per week and rate there was no reason it would not remain and continue to improve, however, geology was always a challenge in longwall operations.
"We have full seam displacement faults in the current footprint to negotiate," he said.
"However, we believe that by developing our operation into one that continuously improves through the application of our operating philosophy we will continue to reduce waste in our processes and therefore continue to stay ahead of the pack with the involvement of everyone in the organisation."
Spence said automation of the longwall face had been a focus to remove the variation from the operation.
"Our key strategies are in line with our operating philosophy: good leadership, the right people in key roles, establishing and embedding new standards, application of quick change over principles to longwall moves, the development of a world class asset management strategy, and daily focus on practical problem solving to countermeasure defects," he said.
Spence said that except for a week in January the CHPP had coal to wash all year.
"The team focused on bottle necks and problem solved those issues to increase the operational hours - defect elimination … reducing the maintenance debt and better maintenance practices to reduce failures and scheduled losses," he said.
Spence said the mine applied the same operating philosophy to development as to other areas of the operations.
Kestrel sought to reduce variation and waste through setting clear and aggressive targets, providing excellent leadership with highly capable people in key roles, setting basic expectations and standards, and maintaining process improvement.
"A strong focus in development was building capability in fundamental skills with investment in training such as miner driver fundamental skills and a highly skilled ‘method master' to coach and train," Spence said.
"We also worked hard on improved problem solving, visual performance management for crews and the department, total productive maintenance and team-based activity to standardise panel moves and establish panel standards.
"We have significantly reduced defects and equipment downtime. We established an organisation structure that allows us to focus on total productive maintenance - both improving our maintenance processes and equipment care and operation."
The company is not content to rely on its good production and development record alone and it takes safety seriously.
"Like any operation the safety culture is something we are always concerned about and working on, with improved engagement of the workforce we are now seeing a decrease in both our safety and absenteeism trends," Spence said.