Aquila is an underground hard coking coal mine near Middlemount in Queensland, which forms part of the Capcoal joint venture between Anglo American (70%) and Mitsui & Co. Ltd (30%), with Anglo American the managing company.

The mine project, announced in July 2019, proposes a medium seam longwall operation targeting the Aquila and Aquila Lower coal seams to produce hard coking coal and effectively extend the life of Anglo American’s underground operations in the area.

Aquila will extend the life of Anglo American’s existing Capcoal underground operations near Middlemount by six years to 2028, and continue to utilise the associated infrastructure at the Capcoal complex as its nearby Grasstree mine approaches end of life.

According to the company’s publication Capcoal Complex: Socio-Economic Assessment Toolbox Report 2019-2021, the extension of the Grasstree mine for an additional five new longwall panels will extend the life of the mine for another three years.

Anglo American has also commenced a feasibility study into a brownfield development within the Capcoal mining leases, aiming to extract reserves from the Aquila and Aquila Lower seams, which occur in the upper part of the German Creek formation.

The Aquila mine project will operate as an additional extension to the life of Grasstree mine.

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Construction

The mine project is progressing on schedule, with much of the necessary infrastructure construction underway, and the production of development coal ongoing. It is currently in the planning and approvals stage.

Aquila Mine operations manager Chris Carroll says first production was on track for early 2022.

“It’s a milestone that’s not just about cutting longwall coal,” he said. “This coal will be transported by the new infrastructure that is currently being built to support it.”

New infrastructure being constructed include surface infrastructure, the development of longwall panels and underground infrastructure to support the operation.

The project is also supporting local jobs through its construction phase, with around 500 personnel on-site at present and contracts valued at more than $300m.

Aquila Mine project director Tony Willmott says one of the many highlights of the project is seeing the new design come into reality.

“The big highlight is establishing the team,” Mr Wilmott said.

“It’s inspiring to set the structure in place and get the right people in the right roles and see our team develop.

“From July 2021 we will start to see the first elements of the longwall arrive, and that will build the excitement again.

“At the same time, we will start to establish our first face roads and, that first longwall block boxed out, is a very important milestone for this project.”

An underground worker at the Aquila mine project.

World-Leading Technology

The Aquila metallurgical coal project in Central Queensland will be one the world’s most technologically advanced underground mines.

Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining™, its blueprint for innovation-led pathways to sustainable mining, drives the company’s approaches to technology, digitalisation and sustainability.

Innovative technologies currently in development include bulk ore sorting capabilities where sensors determine ore content prior to processing, coarse particle flotation processes that allow material to be crushed to larger particle sizes, hydraulic dry stacking at tailings facilities, hydrogen-powered haulage and other safety initiatives targeting collision avoidance and underground connectivity.

The company has awarded nearly $200m to six longwall equipment suppliers to deliver a walk-on, walk-off system using two complete longwalls, a $20m overland conveyor system and more than $20m in civil works for the Aquila mine project.

Anglo American Metallurgical Coal business chief executive officer Tyler Mitchelson recently reiterated the project was on track for first longwall production of premium quality hard coking coal in early 2022.

“Aquila will be a breakthrough project, designed to set a new standard of safety and performance by leveraging technology and focusing on operational improvements,” he said.

“The mine will showcase our innovation-led approach to sustainable mining, with a remote operating centre on the surface of the mine, proximity detection systems underground to alert machine operators to pedestrians and the continued digitisation of our operations, using new technologies such as our Australian-first intrinsically safe underground electronic tablets.”

Anglo American leads the way with the use of technology to minimise its environmental blueprint and aims for carbon neutral operations by 2040, with eight sites carbon neutral by 2030.

Recycled Water

The World Economic Forum states there is a predicted shortfall of water of 40% by 2030.

Water makes up part Anglo American’s global stretch goals including the operation of waterless mines in water scarce catchments.

The company aims to eliminate fresh water from its mining processes, especially in the separation and transportation of ore and waste (tailings) through a closed loop recycling system, the accurate measurement of evaporation rates, low-cost dry tailings disposal to limit water loss and exploring dry separation techniques.

The Aquila mine project includes a $5m reverse osmosis water treatment system to increase the use of recycled water and reduce the reliance on fresh water at the mine – a key target in Anglo American’s Sustainable Mining Plan.

According to the plan, by 2030, the company aims to reduce water abstraction by 50% and to reduce both energy usage and reduce GHG emissions by 30% each.

Its 2020 milestone for water was to increase water recycling levels to 75%.

Crib time at the Aquila mine project.

Local Supplier Investments and Significant Project Contributors

The Aquila mine project has invested more than $240m in local suppliers to-date.

“Our Aquila project is progressing well, with support from its Queensland-based workforce and contracting partners,” Mr Mitchelson said.

Anglo American’s Aquila mine project is progressing on schedule.

The development team prepares for the longwall to start production in early 2022.

“More than 90% of our Aquila contracts have been awarded to Queensland-based suppliers, and we currently have around 500 people working on the project in engineering, surface construction and underground development.”

Anglo American also awarded a $95m mining development contract to Mackay-based mining company Mastermyne in 2019.

Last financial year, Anglo American invested $2.83b with Queensland suppliers, which was 77% of the company’s total expenditure in Australia.

The Capcoal Complex

The Capcoal complex consists of the Capcoal open cut and underground Grasstree mines, about 60km southwest of Middlemount, in Central Queensland’s Bowen Basin.

Grasstree is an underground longwall operation and, together with the Capcoal open cut, these mines provide quality hard coking coal for export steel markets.

Mining leases controlled by Capcoal cover 33,513ha and most of the coal is mined from the German Creek formation, which contains five coal seam intervals known as the German Creek, Corvus, Tieri, Aquila and Pleiades seams.

Capcoal supports community events and assists with the provision of important local services, including a $2.6m upgrade of shopping centre facilities and a $25m investment in the upgrade of 100 homes in recent years.

In 2017, the Capcoal complex produced 6.7mt of saleable metallurgical coal (Anglo American share), with exports shipped from Gladstone Port and Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal near Mackay, Queensland.

About Anglo American

Anglo American is a global mining company with significant operations in Queensland and is the world’s third largest seaborne exporter of metallurgical coal.

The company is a responsible producer of diamonds (through De Beers), copper, platinum group metals, the steelmaking ingredients of iron ore and metallurgical coal, and nickel – with crop nutrients in development and thermal coal operations planned for divestment.

With two open cut and three underground metallurgical coal mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, along with additional joint venture interests and growth projects, Anglo American uses innovative practices and the latest technologies to mine, process and move its products – and to explore new resources – safely and sustainably.

Its strategy is to secure, develop and operate a portfolio of high quality and long-life resource assets, achieving this through innovative practices and technologies.

Anglo American is committed to being carbon neutral across its operations by 2040.

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