COAL production at Rio Tinto’s Kestrel Mine Extension is underway, with the US$20 million project adding a further 20 years to the life of the underground mine.
Rio has run the hard coking coal (HCC) operation at Kestrel since 1999, but began the Kestrel South extension four years ago.
At the peak of construction in early 2013 the extension provided work for about 1500 employees and contractors, and would require a workforce of about 400 people over the next 20 years.
The expansion involved the construction of a new longwall, a 7.9km overland conveyor and upgrades to the existing coal handling and preparation plant, which has allowed a new series of underground panels to be mined to the south of the existing operation.
Kestrel mine general manager operations John Coughlan said he expected to see the first HCC shipment from Kestrel South depart for overseas in the coming weeks.
“Over the coming year and a half we’ll see a gradual transition of production as our existing operation, known as Kestrel North, winds down and the new Kestrel South operation ramps up,” he said.
“Kestrel South is expected to reach full capacity by the end of 2014 and produce an average of 5.7 million tonnes per annum over the next 20 years.”
Coal from the Kestrel mine is shipped from the Port of Gladstone to Rio’s main export customers in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Europe, India and China.Rio Tinto Coal Australia manages the Kestrel mine on behalf of joint venture partners Queensland Coal and Mitsui Kestrel Coal Investment.