Tag Archives: EX3600

Bowen Coking Coal brings BUMA Australia on-board for Broadmeadow East project

Bowen Coking Coal Ltd has appointed BUMA Australia Pty Ltd to provide mining services to its 100% owned Broadmeadow East Mine (BME) in Queensland, Australia.

First phase mobilisation of site infrastructure, ancillary equipment, haul tucks and a Hitachi EX3600 excavator are underway and site work is expected to commence within the next two weeks, BCC said.

Bowen has appointed BUMA on a three-year contract, with the option to extend for a further year (at Bowen’s election) to operate the BME mine, using its own equipment, staff, systems and procedures in accordance with production requirements set by Bowen.

The contract also makes provision for the seamless transition into the Burton mine at already agreed rates and production volumes, which the company intends to trigger immediately on completion of the Burton transaction.

The Broadmeadow East Project was acquired from Peabody Energy in June 2020 for A$1 million ($724,086) plus a royalty of A$1 per tonne for the first 1.5 Mt sold. The project hosts a 33 Mt resource and was initially planned to be mined though conventional truck and shovel open-cut mining at a rate of 800,000 t/y to 1 Mt/y over a period of between five to seven years.

A fast-tracked program for this contract targets the same tonnages to be mined at an average rate of circa 1.2 Mt/y over a shorter period.

Bowen Coking Coal Managing Director and CEO, Gerhard Redelinghuys, said: “We welcome the experienced team from BUMA on-board and we look forward to a long and mutually prosperous partnership. BME is a critical building block in Bowen’s plans to become Australia’s next significant independent coking coal producer.

“The rapid start-up of production from BME will be a testament to the team’s ability to transform a green fields project into a producing mine in a short time frame. Bringing BME into production diversifies the Bowen production base and will be the first of a number of our metallurgical coal projects to be exported from the world-class Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal. It’s a great time to be bringing on our second producing asset in this extraordinary high priced environment.

“This agreement with BUMA puts Bowen in a very strong position to expand production further via a quick start-up of the larger, adjoining Burton mine post-transaction completion.”

Coal mined from BME will initially be hauled to Fitzroy Australia’s Carborough Downs coal handling and preparation plant where it will be washed and exported to global steel producers through the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal under an infrastructure access agreement.

BUMA Australia was established in 2021 to acquire the Open Cut Mining business of Downer. This acquisition included the transition of all people, mining services contracts, assets, systems and intellectual property from a business which has successfully provided mining and civil services in diverse locations and across many commodities for over 75 year including recent contracts with the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance and Stanwell.

Whitehaven Coal reveals cost benefits of autonomous haulage with Hitachi

At an investor day presentation last week, Whitehaven Coal Chief Operating Officer, Jamie Frankcombe, confronted the topic of autonomous haulage systems (AHS), spelling out why the Australia-based coal miner is planning to leverage this technology at its expanding Maules Creek operation in northwest New South Wales, Australia.

In what was an honest assessment of AHS performance to date, he said miners and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) had made “broad suggestions about the scale of improvements” that came with automating equipment, but the “detailed underpinnings” of these improvements have not been disclosed publicly.

He gave a few reasons why this was the case: First, each mine is structurally different in nature, so performance metrics are not ‘one-size-fits-all’. Second, the underlying performance of each AHS fleet is proprietary information to the operator and OEM.

Despite this, productivity improvements of around 15-20% had been discussed by miners and OEMs – linked to higher availability and utilisation rates in fewer trucks being required – along with anecdotal reports of maintenance savings, tyre life improvement, equipment life improvement and safety benefits.

On the capital expenditure side, AHS was also expected to reduce fleet sizes by allowing more tonnes to be mined with existing equipment.

Frankcombe was speaking about automation at a time when the coal miner is embarking on its own AHS journey.

Back in July 2018, Hitachi Construction Machinery Co Ltd and Whitehaven announced the two had come to an agreement to implement the first commercial Hitachi autonomous truck fleet at the Maules Creek coal operation in northwest New South Wales, Australia.

The collaboration between the two companies entailed scoping the delivery and commissioning of phased AHS deployment for the fleet of Hitachi EH5000AC3 trucks at Maules Creek and the establishment of the physical and technological infrastructure to support AHS capability.

The original release was short on detail, but said the AHS solution would leverage the fleet management system provided by Hitachi’s Wenco International Mining Systems subsidiary, in addition to Hitachi Construction Machinery’s Smart Mining Truck with Advanced Vehicle Stabilisation Controls using Hitachi robotics, AC motor and drive control unit technologies. The Blockage management system from Hitachi’s railway business would also play a role in this solution, as would a sensing technology and navigation system cultivated in Hitachi Group’s automobile industry segment.

In Whitehaven Coal’s results for the six months ending December 31, 2018, it said testing of the Hitachi AHS system had begun and, in August, it confirmed the first fleet trials would take place by the end of June 2020.

During Frankcombe’s presentation to investors, he narrowed down those timelines, saying the Hitachi AHS had been approved for operational implementation, and commissioning and training was to follow in a segregated area of the mine. This was before the mine transitioned to an operational area for AHS from December 2019.

He also said the initial AHS fleet would comprise one EX3600 excavator and six EH5000 trucks. Following a six-month period, a transition to one EX8000 excavator and nine EH5000 trucks would occur, he said. Then, additional EX800 fleets would be added in six-monthly intervals based on “performance gateway” achievements, with a target of five fleets and up to 45 trucks within three years.

This is a rapid ramp-up of automation, but Maules Creek is being expanded over this timeframe, with Whitehaven expecting production to go from 11.7 Mt run of mine (ROM) in the year ended June 30, 2019, to 16 Mt/y of ROM coal. This expansion will also see the company incorporate in-pit dumping into its operations as it looks to lower its operating cost.

Frankcombe went further than a lot of other miners using AHS in outlining the estimated operating cost impact of introducing this technology into the operation.

He said the cost benefit of integrating autonomous haulage into Maules Creek equated to A$3.70-$4.10 ($2.53-2.81) per product tonne – including the related 16 Mt/y expansion.

The operating costs benefits included the direct savings associated with AHS across personnel – offset by AHS service fees – of A$1.40/product tonne, in addition to a A$0.90-$1.10/product tonne impact from increased productivity leading to lower capital intensity and a reduction in fixed costs across overheads, wages, equipment hire and coal handling preparation plant fixed costs.

On the capital benefits side, the low capital intensity of the expansion derived from in-pit dumping, cast blasting and the AHS trucking fleet would drive a capital saving on a unit basis of A$1.40-$1.60/product tonne, he outlined.

Not many other miners have gone into such detail about the cost benefits of AHS.

Of the major adopters, BHP has previously said safety incidents relating to heavy vehicles have fallen by 80% at its Jimblebar iron ore operation, in the Pilbara, while truck productivity has risen 18%. Fortescue Metals Group – on its way to having the world’s first fully-autonomous iron ore fleet – has reported a 32% increase in truck productivity; and Rio has previously said each of its AHS truck operates at a 15% lower load and haul unit cost vs manned trucks.

It will be interesting to see just how accurate Whitehaven’s predictions turn out to be in a few years’ time.