Tag Archives: Whitehaven Coal

MasterMyne-Narrabri

Mastermyne bolsters work program at Whitehaven Coal’s Narrabri mine

Metarock Group Limited says its Mastermyne division has executed a contract for additional mining works at Whitehaven Coal Limited’s Narrabri mine, in New South Wales, Australia, over and above the existing scope of works which commenced in late 2022.

The new contract relates to the operation of an additional development panel and is for a term of three years, valued at approximately A$60 million ($38 million) in total revenue.

Commenting on the contract award, Metarock’s Interim Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Whiteman, said: “I am delighted to announce this new contract with our valued client at Narrabri. I believe that it is a firm testament to the strong relationships that Mastermyne develops with its clients founded upon the consistent quality of work performed.”

Last year, Mastermyne secured a new two-year fixed term contract (plus two-year extension option) with Whitehaven Coal for the cut and flit mining method at Narrabri, with the agreement representing a remobilisation of a former similar cut and flit contract which Mastermyne performed for Narrabri from 2017-2020.

Whitehaven Coal to acquire BMA’s Daunia and Blackwater mines

Whitehaven Coal has executed definitive sale agreements with BHP Group and Mitsubishi Development Pty Ltd (together, BMA) to acquire 100% of both the Daunia and Blackwater coal mines in Queensland, Australia, for an aggregate consideration of $3.2 billion.

Whitehaven says the transaction delivers significant value upside with attractive growth opportunities in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, including synergies with Whitehaven’s Winchester South development project. It also transforms Whitehaven into a metallurgical coal producer in line with strategy, with pro-forma managed run of mine (ROM) production of around 40 Mt/y annum and pro-forma revenues of around 70% metallurgical coal and 30% thermal coal.

Completion of the acquisition is expected in the June 2024 quarter subject to satisfying conditions precedent including regulatory and merger control approvals.

The Daunia open-cut coal mine is 30 km south-east of Moranbah, and about 170 km southwest of Mackay in Queensland. The mine produces a hard coking coal (HCC) and pulverised coal injection (PCI) metallurgical coal products, and it is expected to produce an average of circa-4.9 Mt/y of saleable coal production over the next five years. It is expected that the remaining LOM production will continue until 2040. Daunia is adjacent to Whitehaven’s Winchester South development project in the Bowen Basin. Following the acquisition, Daunia’s coal products will continue to be exported to customers across Asia through the Dalrymple Bay Terminal near Mackay.

Back in 2020, BMA announced a A$100 million ($64 million) investment and new jobs as part of the introduction of 34 autonomous trucks at the mine.

The Blackwater coal mine is an open-cut mine which lies 73 km south-east of Emerald in Queensland and is expected to produce an average of circa-12.4 Mt/y of saleable coal production over the next five years. It is one of the largest coal mines in Australia, with a strike length of 80 km, and has the largest dragline fleet (7) in the Southern Hemisphere. Both HCC and semi soft coking coal (SSCC) metallurgical coal products are mined at Blackwater. The remaining LOM production is expected to be greater than 50 years. Blackwater’s coal products are exported to customers across Asia through the RG Tanna Terminal north of Gladstone.

Paul Flynn, CEO & Managing Director of Whitehaven, said: “This is a compelling transaction for Whitehaven that accelerates our strategy, transforms our company and delivers substantial value for our shareholders.

“This transformational acquisition will pivot our portfolio towards metallurgical coal, which has been a core pillar of our strategy for many years making this a better balanced business. Our thermal coal business remains strategically important as we continue to provide much-needed coal products to support the global energy transition and as customers seek our high-quality and high-CV products to limit their emissions.

“This is a highly attractive and materially earnings accretive acquisition, with considerable upside potential, which we expect will deliver meaningful returns to our shareholders for many years to come. It strengthens our portfolio of quality, long life assets in attractive locations providing geographic and operational diversification and scale benefits.

“We look forward to completing the transaction and welcoming the teams at Daunia and Blackwater into the Whitehaven business, and working with the local community and other stakeholders who will remain an important part of our operations.”

DRA Global to carry out works for Whitehaven’s Vickery Extension project

DRA Global says it has secured the contract for a major design package for Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery Extension project located in New South Wales, Australia.

As the preferred supplier, the DRA team will execute the detailed engineering and design and post Whitehaven’s Financial Investment Decision provide technical and project support services during the tendering, construction and commissioning phases for the Vickery Coal Handling and Preparation Plant, it said.

DRA Global APAC Executive Vice President, Darren Naylor, said the contract award underscores the company’s recognised technical expertise and capabilities in the market.

“Led by the APAC team in Brisbane, the works will continue to build the EPCM delivery capabilities for process plants and infrastructure, leveraging our proven track record of success,” he said. “We are pleased this award strengthens our long-standing partnership with Whitehaven Coal and further solidifies our presence within the broader New South Wales and Queensland resources market.”

The Vickery Extension project is a proposal to construct an open-cut coal mine and associated on-site infrastructure about 25 km north of Gunnedah, Whitehaven says. The mine will produce a majority metallurgical coal for steel-making, with the balance being high quality thermal coal destined for premium export markets in our region. The proposal builds upon, and further optimises, an already-approved mine, on a site that has already been extensively and safely mined over many years.

In August 2020, Vickery was approved by the Independent Planning Commission NSW.

Whitehaven Coal moves into final year of AHS development at Maules Creek

Close to three-and-a-half years after commencing autonomous haulage operations at its Maules Creek coal operation in New South Wales, Australia, Whitehaven Coal is set to soon decide on whether to adopt the automated haulage system (AHS) or discontinue its pilot program, the company said in its just released FY2023 results.

Back in July 2018, Hitachi Construction Machinery Co Ltd and Whitehaven announced the two companies had come to an agreement to implement the first commercial Hitachi autonomous truck fleet at Maules Creek. 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.

At that point, the two companies 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 developed in Hitachi Group’s automobile industry segment.

Initial on-site testing of Hitachi’s AHS took place in 2019 and the company ramped up these tests to reach the commercial deployment stage. A fleet of six EH5000 trucks and one excavator (an EX3600) then started operation in March 2020, focused on overburden.

In the years that have passed, the company has added more trucks to the program, with 28 of the company’s 300-t-payload EH5000s equipped with AHS as of the end of June 2023. This represents around 60% of the entire truck fleet.

Reporting in its annual results, Whitehaven said there were enhancements underway to improve efficiencies with the AHS system, especially focused on manned/unmanned interactions. It also said there were software upgrades scheduled for its current financial year (to June 30, 2024), while it planned to run two EX8000 excavator fleets with integrated manned coal and waste operations.

These actions followed a rise in operating costs across the company during the 2023 financial year. When it comes to Maules Creek, the company noted operational constraints driven by labour shortages, congestion arising from limited dumping locations while maintaining separation of manned and unmanned AHS fleets, as well as productivity impacts and disruptions from weather and in-pit water management.

“Maules Creek delivered run of mine coal production of 9.6 Mt in FY 2023, 15% below FY 2022,” the company added.

After several years of development, Whitehaven expects to make a decision on whether to fully embrace AHS operations at Maules Creek in its current financial year.

It said: “Development of the AHS will continue this year, which is expected to place continued constraints on production at Maules Creek. Depending on the success of this final year of AHS development, a decision will be made to adopt AHS at Maules Creek or discontinue the pilot program.”

AIMEX 2023 to illustrate the mining sector’s transition to a net-zero future

Australia’s longest-running mining event will return in September this year, with Asia-Pacific’s International Mining Exhibition (AIMEX*) 2023 set to bring together decision makers, experts and suppliers determined to change the face of the mining industry through technology, collaboration and radical improvements in efficiency and productivity.

From September 5-7, AIMEX attendees will gather at Sydney Showground to meet colleagues at networking events, discover innovative new products at the wide-ranging exhibition and drive the sector’s decarbonisation dialogue forward thanks to the event’s free-to-attend conference series.

Events like AIMEX always have a strong focus on mining’s contribution to the Australian economy, as well as a collaborative approach to knowledge sharing, according to event organisers. Stephen Galilee, CEO of industry body NSW Mining, believes the long-awaited AIMEX 2023 will live up to these standards.

“Mining is critical to the New South Wales economy, providing direct jobs for over 40,000 people while supporting thousands more jobs in more than 7,300 mining supplier businesses in NSW,” he said. “Australia is known for its mining expertise, our professionalism, and our commitment to safety. This strong track record means our highly skilled people, our technology, and our services are utilised by many mining operations around the world.”

Galilee added: “With hundreds of local and international mining industry suppliers expected to attend, attendance at AIMEX 2023 is a great opportunity to showcase the best our industry has to offer, including the latest developments in global mining technologies, and to share knowledge and experiences across the sector.”

As part of this knowledge-sharing and connection-driven agenda, the event will feature a free-to-attend conference, with themes including decarbonisation, technical innovation and waste management. AIMEX Exhibition Director, Samantha Martin, says conversations like these are essential for industry’s future.

“Australia’s transition to a green energy future will not happen without mining and METS and, while the country is well placed to lead this transition, innovation and collaboration across the supply chain have never been more important,” she said.

“Mining companies are no longer just looking for products that boost efficiency or lower costs, they also need products and services that meet their environmental, social and governance (ESG) obligations. AIMEX will illustrate the sector’s transition to a net-zero future with a dedicated product zone that will be complemented by key topics in the AIMEX Conference program.”

At AIMEX, there’s also opportunities for suppliers and potential employees to engage directly with major producers via the Mining House Pavilion, with Yancoal, Glencore and Whitehaven Coal already confirmed to attend.

Whitehaven Coal’s Executive General Manager of People & Culture, Daniel Cram, says that participating in AIMEX 2023 was an easy decision, given the quality of attendees and the chances to really have deep conversations around the future of industry.

“In such a tight talent market, it makes sense to maximise our opportunities to connect with both potential employees and suppliers, and AIMEX is a really convenient way to do exactly that,” he said.

AIMEX will feature a truly global cohort of suppliers with over 250 companies exhibiting, including Bosch Rexroth, Alfagomma, Altra Motion, Gates, IFM Efector, CR Mining, Bend-tech Group and Austdac. New features at AIMEX 2023 are the Transformative Technology Pavilion, showcasing exponential technologies, such as augmented reality, virtual reality and data utilisation, and the Decarbonisation Zone, featuring smart and sustainable solutions that meet the sector’s ESG obligations.

*International Mining is a media sponsor of AIMEX 2023

Mastermyne goes back to Whitehaven’s Narrabri coal mine

Mastermyne, a subsidiary of Metarock Group Ltd, has secured a new two-year fixed term contract (plus two-year extension option) with Whitehaven Coal, a Tier 1 client, for the cut and flit mining method at its Narrabri Mine, in New South Wales, Australia.

This contract is a remobilisation of a former similar cut and flit contract which Mastermyne performed for Narrabri from 2017-2020.

The scope includes the installation and retraction of the panel conveyor belts, associated ventilation and mining services, the company said, adding that the contract reinforces its strong reputation to deliver quality development services.

Narrabri mine, which has been operating successfully since 2012, is Whitehaven’s only underground operation. It is approved to produce 11 Mt/y of high-quality thermal coal until 2031.

The Narrabri longwall is fully automated and is one of the most advanced in Australia, according to Whitehaven.

IMARC panel tackles decarbonisation need and rising power costs dilemma

The second day of the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC), in Sydney, Australia, has put a spotlight on the industry’s response to ESG and energy transition.

The keynote address was a panel discussion focusing on energy transition and decarbonisation. The panel was made up of global heavyweights from the energy, mining, infrastructure and digital sectors.

Setting the scene, David Solsky, Vice President Sustainability Software Solutions at IBM, said: “We are on the verge of the biggest transformation of the global economy in a century.”

Sarah Barker, Head of Climate Risk Governance at Minter Ellison, added to this, saying: “What is certain is that the energy transition is going to happen. What is unknown is when or how. We do know, however, transitions are not linear; they tend to be bumpy.”

Talking to the mammoth task ahead, Sue Brown, Executive Group Director Sustainability at Worley, said: “The scale of investment needed in energy infrastructure alone will need to increase four or five times every year for the next 20 to 30 years.”

However, the transition comes with risk warns Michael van Maanen, Executive General Manager, Corporate, Government and Community at Whitehaven Coal. Maanen understands the social and economic imperative of transitioning to green and renewable energy but believes the transition must not come at the expense of exponentially higher power prices.

“Investors are accelerating the transition much faster than customers can bear and that’s problematic,” he said.

Eng. Suliman Bin Khaled Almazroua, CEO of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, explained how Saudi Arabia is tackling energy costs amid their rapid transition to renewable and green energy.

“We have added sustainability to our equation when determining risk in new projects,” he said. “What we have found is that by doing that we are creating long-term value for companies who want to invest new projects.”

Over the three-day conference from November 2-4, delegates at IMARC have discussed how to best approach energy transition and the need to decarbonise, using the forum to determine global best practices and to explore new technologies that can with the transition.

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC

IMARC to put spotlight on Indigenous participation in mining

The 2022 International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) is putting the spotlight on Indigenous participation within the sector through multiple partnerships, opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander industry leaders, and a panel discussion dedicated to First Nations people working in the field at the ICC Sydney from November 2 to 4.

Several influential leaders will discuss the importance of Indigenous participation across the supply chain including Florence Drummond, the CEO of Indigenous Women in Mining and Resources Australia (IWIMRA). The organisation has partnered with IMARC, working to raise the profile of First Nations women and contributing to best practice solutions ensuring the visibility, voice and quality participation of Indigenous women within the sector.

“We are so excited to have a formal partnership with IMARC and it’s only now that we are starting to recognise how truly impactful it will be,” Drummond says.

“From our history of compounded disadvantage and continued systemic challenges, it is understandable that many of our people are fatigued and frustrated at yet another mechanism for change. However, we have worked hard to agree on what shared value is in this context and to deliver this significant opportunity for all stakeholders.

“Based on trust, we plan for our delegates to be a part of the conversation and to ask the hard questions so that they can be the spark or the catalyst for change back in their home.”

Also on the panel is Chair of the Cooperative Research Centre for Transformation in Mining Economies’ (CRC TiME) First Nations Advisory Team, Jim Walker, who works with the mine closure and rehabilitation firm to ensure First Nations engagement, participation and outcomes are considered in their projects.

Walker says: “We’ve got to talk about how to involve Indigenous people, especially in the context of where to mine, how to mine and the impact of the mine as it moves through its estimated useful life. There’s a lot of Indigenous knowledge that can be utilised to mitigate the impact of mines, especially at the time of mine closures. Under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we are ‘rightsholders’ not merely ‘stakeholders’ and as such, engagement with us as Indigenous peoples becomes mandatory.”

Walker hopes IMARC will be not only an opportunity to collaborate and advance these conversations in Australia, but to have an impact on Indigenous communities around the world.

“If we can set the scene within Australia at IMARC then international delegates will take that message back and we may see more effective and impactful Indigenous engagement and participation across the global mining industry.”

In partnership with Whitehaven Coal, IMARC is also giving First Nations mining and resources leaders complimentary passes to attend the conference, providing opportunities to network, learn and be a part of the conversations at the Australian industry’s most influential mining event.

Indigenous executives are being encouraged to nominate themselves or can be nominated by colleagues here before the Monday, 17 October deadline to be in the running to receive one of 10 full access passes that include access to the IMARC gala dinner on November 3.

Whitehaven Coal’s Executive General Manager of Corporate, Government and Community Affairs, Michael van Maanen, is enormously proud of the initiative, saying: “We need to see more engagement with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community. It’s such a central part of the Australian economy and as an industry, given our geographic distribution across the country, we would have to be better positioned than most other sectors to really form functional, rewarding partnerships with traditional owners.”

“Last year we spent A$8.73 million ($5.5 million) with 14 local Aboriginal-run businesses in the area and that’s really significant for us because we’re a big piece of the local economy, and through procurement we’re trying to ensure diversification and help Aboriginal businesses stand on their own two feet and have access to the various opportunities that can come from having a commercial relationship with Whitehaven,” van Mannen says.

Striving to enable equal opportunity, Whitehaven Coal has surpassed their initial Indigenous employment quotas with 20% of employees at its Maules Creek site and 11% of their total workforce identifying as Indigenous.

Walker adds: “There’s no reason you can’t exceed Indigenous employment quotas and it’s only to the betterment of companies when we talk about Indigenous engagement, especially when it comes to knowledge of the land and engagement in and around repurposing mine sites to benefit Indigenous people and Australia as a whole.”

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC

Metarock set to leverage competitive contractor advantage

Mastermyne’s contract mining growth ambitions became very clear in September when it proposed a buyout of contractor PYBAR Mining Services in a deal valuing PYBAR equity at A$47 million ($35 million).

The deal, which has just completed, sees Mastermyne, up until this point a company focused on the Australian coal sector, expand into the domestic hard-rock space through exposure to PYBAR’s gold, copper, zinc and lead-related revenues. In the process, it has been restructured under Metarock Group Limited.

The transaction is expected to create a leading Australia-based diversified mining services business with material scale, Mastermyne said, adding that the combined group will have a A$1.7 billion-plus order book and an active tender pipeline of A$2.7 billion-plus after completion. PYBAR will continue to operate as an independent business unit within the group with the existing management team.

Tony Caruso, Managing Director of Metarock (pictured), said the company had identified some time ago the need to diversify into “adjacent markets” to ensure its business retained “resilient and sustained earnings”.

“To be clear, we are very supportive of the coal industry, and we will continue to grow our coal business,” he told IM. “What we do know from 30 years of experience of operating in this market is it is very cyclic.”

When coal prices are strong, it is a great market to be a contractor, Caruso explained. Yet, when prices come down, contractor workforces or scope reductions often follow as mine owners look to cut their “flex costs”.

A diversified Metarock would be able to better cope with such a market dip.

“The theory (behind the PYBAR acquisition) is that when coal is down, other commodities will be up,” Caruso said.

In addition to increased commodity diversity, there are also a huge number of synergies that could be realised with the combination of the two companies.

PYBAR offers raiseboring services that can be used in coal, while Mastermyne offers ground support services (through its recently acquired Wilson Mining business) that can be used in the hard-rock space.

Both have registered training organisations that could share industry best practice across sectors, too.

What Mastermyne learned in the coal boom when it developed the “clean skin” training program, using a simulated underground coal mine with a bespoke program to train people for working in an underground coal mine, may have relevance in the hard-rock sector given the recent ‘boom’ perceptions, according to Caruso.

There are also more specific technology synergies that could benefit both hard-rock and soft-rock customers.

PYBAR has embraced automation and digitalisation with, for example, teleremote loading operations at the Dargues gold mine in Western Australia (pictured below, credit: PYBAR) and the use of Digital Terrain’s Simbio data entry and processing solution on its mining fleet.

Mastermyne has been running a similar project where real-time data is “taken off” machinery and, through proprietary software, converted into real-time dashboards for the operators to track performance against operational targets. Mastermyne used such a system with great success at the Narrabri underground operation, owned by Whitehaven Coal.

Caruso said on the latter: “We were looking at building out that software into other areas of our business – we used that in our production machines when we were cutting coal, but we were starting to look at bringing that across to a lot of the other support services we provide to customers as well.”

Should PYBAR come on board, Simbio could end up being used on its coal development machines, according to Caruso.

It works the other way round, too, with Mastermyne’s proximity detection expertise in coal having applications in the hard-rock space.

“Not only are these solutions OEM-agnostic; they are sector-agnostic,” Caruso said. “The same technology is applicable for coal and metalliferous markets.”

The benefits of the business combination do not stop here.

Growth in the coal space has mostly been tied to sustaining capital projects – the overall production levels have remained flat, if slightly increased – whereas, in the hard-rock sector, brownfield and greenfield projects have been the order of the day, catalysed by higher prices and projections of increased demand.

This means the pressure dynamics around skilled labour are slightly different between the two.

Mastermyne has, to this point, benefitted from the ongoing trend of majors exiting their thermal coal businesses to deliver on ambitious ESG targets, with smaller companies taking on these assets and outsourcing work to contractors. Mining contracts at Crinum (Sojitz Blue Pty Ltd) and Cook (QCoal) in Queensland are two examples of the company taking advantage of this trend.

This type of sustaining growth capital expenditure in the coal sector is very different to the greenfield growth witnessed in 2010-2012, Caruso said. “The significant volume increase in greenfield expansion, which drove real pressure on labour, is not there,” he said.

In the hard-rock space, the dynamic is much more reminiscent of that boom a decade ago.

“There are a lot of new projects in Western Australia opening up so there is a lot more pressure on resources because the demand is far outstripping the supply in the hard-rock labour pool,” he said.

While there has not, typically, been a transfer of labour between the coal and hard-rock contracting sectors, if Metarock is able to facilitate such a shift, it could gain a competitive advantage over peers scrabbling for talent that are focused wholly on the hard-rock mining space.

“We have a workforce of 2,000-2,500 people at the moment, and we want to have a fluid workforce that can move across sectors,” Caruso said. “This will enable us to send our best people to projects to make sure we replicate good performance at these operations, regardless of where they are, geographically, or what type of work they are doing.”

Not only could this provide Metarock with the ability to shift employees between sectors, but it could also allow them to offer employees long-term security beyond the current Australian coal demand horizon.

Redpath Australia wins cut and flit contract at Whitehaven’s Narrabri operations

Redpath Australia says it has been awarded the Cut and Flit Development Contract for Whitehaven Coal at its Narrabri operations in New South Wales, Australia.

Situated around 28 km southeast of Narrabri on the North West Slopes in New South Wales, the Narrabri operations mine site is one of Australia’s most productive underground coal mines. Whitehaven is the majority owner – with a 77.5% interest – and the operation has approval to extract up to 11 Mt/y of coal from the longwall operations.

Mark Donghi, General Manager – Mechanical Excavation for Redpath, says the project will employ around 55 personnel and the aim is to start recruiting immediately.

Redpath Australia’s Managing Director, Gavin Ramage, said the company is looking forward to working closely with Narrabri operations in delivering the project safely and efficiently.

The company said: “As a market leader in providing advanced development solutions to mine owners across Australia and around the globe, Redpath is well placed to deliver this project for Narrabri Coal Operations.”