All images: BHP Billiton


AS the hangover from Cyclone Debbie subsides, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) continues to push forward with investments across its Bowen Basins operations, including $US204 million towards the Caval Ridge Southern Circuit (CRSC) capital growth project.

A joint venture between BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi Development, the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) is Australia’s largest coal producer and supplier of seaborne metallurgical coal, accounting for about 28 per cent of the world’s seaborne met coal trade.

The coal giant owns nine mines covering a combined area of 75,000sqkm in the resource rich Bowen Basin in Central Queensland; seven of which are operational.

Its current portfolio of operating mines comprises Goonyella Riverside, Broadmeadow, Daunia, Peak Downs, Saraji, Blackwater, and Caval Ridge.

With the exception of the Broadmeadow underground longwall operation, the mines are all open-cut.BMA also owns the Hay Point Coal Terminal, in the Bowen Basin, which was recently expanded to support increased exports.

In December 2015, the third berth at the terminal was officially opened, which included the construction of a new berth, and ship-loader, and replacement of the existing trestle conveyors, jetty, surge bins and linking conveyors.

The $US3 billion project resulted in increased export capacity of an additional 11 million tonnes a year.

In the December 2016 quarter the joint venture achieved metallurgical coal production of 8.684mt bringing its year to date production up to 17.068mt compared to 16.294mt in December 2015.

In the March quarter, BMA coal production dropped to 7.996mt, forcing BHP to lower its FY17 met coal guidance.

“At Queensland Coal, record production was achieved at five mines, underpinned by improved stripping and mining performance, higher yields at Caval Ridge and Saraji, and increased wash-plant utilisation,” BHP stated in its March quarter report.

“This was partially offset by a planned longwall move at Broadmeadow and reduced rail capacity as a result of damage caused by Cyclone Debbie.

“Guidance for the 2017 financial year has been reduced to between 39 and 41 Mt as a result of damage caused by Cyclone Debbie to the network infrastructure of rail track provider Aurizon.”

Cyclone Debbie impact

In March, BHP was forced to suspend operations at five of its coal mines in Queensland that were in the pathway of tropical Cyclone Debbie, including BMA’s Goonyella Riverside, Peak Downs, and Daunia operations.

And while its remaining mines were still in operation, the projects were running at reduced levels, resulting in a further loss of a production.

The Hay Point Coal Terminal was also closed at the time.

“BHP Billiton confirms that force majeure has been declared for all BMA Coal and all BMC Coal products as a result of damage caused by Cyclone Debbie to the network infrastructure of rail track provider Aurizon,” the company said.

“BHP Billiton continues to assess haulage options to manage access from mine sites to ports and shipments to customers.

“We continue to monitor and work through the impacts to production and will provide updates over coming weeks and detail in the Operational Review.”

On 3 April, BMA confirmed crews would be returning to work at the coal mines and Hay Point Terminal.

“Dewatering infrastructure installed after the 2011 floods is working as designed and all sites are resuming operations with mine production ramping up,” BHP stated.

The business will continue to work through the impacts to production.

BHP’s coal business also committed $250,000 to the Salvation Army to support Queenslanders impacted by the storm.

“This is far from over for the people of Queensland,” Acting BMA asset president Frans Knox said at the time.

“Many families have lost their homes and communities continue to be without power.  “Communications are relying on organisations like the Salvation Army for help.”

Project updates

Caval Ridge

On 21 April, BMA announced it would invest $US204m into the Bowen Basin through a new Caval Ridge Southern Circuit (CRSC) capital growth project; an 11km overland conveyor system that would deliver coal from Peak Downs mine to the Cold Handling Preparation Plant (CHPP) at the nearby Caval Ridge project.

The project would also see a new stockpile pad and Run-of-Mine station developed at Peak Downs and at Caval Ridge, and investments in a new mining fleet, including excavators, and trucks.

The project was expected to generate 400 new construction jobs and lock in about 200 ongoing operational roles in the region.

BHP Billiton Minerals Australia president operations Mike Henry said the project “formed the missing link between the two mines”, and would accelerate growth and productivity.
“This investment furthers our productivity agenda, reduces costs, releases latent equipment capacity, and strengthens our coal business’ global competitiveness,” Mr Henry said.
“We are committed to Queensland’s Bowen Basin and this project creates new employment opportunities during construction and locks in ongoing operational roles. The investment flowing from the project will help support the local community and State economy after what has been a difficult time in the region.”

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the project was great news for the Queensland coal industry, which had been struggling through a downturn in the last few years.

“These investments are driven by companies willing to invest because they see the fundamental drivers of global demand for high-quality Queensland coal remain strong,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“We know demand remains strong as there is no viable substitute for coking coal in the production of blast-furnace steel – no ‘Uber’ process waiting in the wings.

“This announcement is great news for the coal sector and the benefits will flow into local communities and local businesses.”

Construction on the project was set to begin this year and would take about 18 months.

BHP said the CSRC project was set to increase the coal handling plant’s capacity throughput to 10mtpa.

Peak Downs and Saraji

The welcome news of jobs was also announced at BMA’s Peak Downs and Saraji mines.

On 31 January, the business stated it would be employing 200 additional people across the two operations.

“This is another sign of green shoots for the Bowen Basin, an area which delivered much of the $1.6 billion boost to royalties for the state government,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“It follows on from the good news we are seeing right across the Queensland coal industry with record exports last year and new mines opening up.”

Located 30km south of Moranbah, Peak Downs was first developed in the early 1970s, and delivered first coal in April 1972.

Production at Saraji also dated back to the early 1970s, with first production in 1974.

Both mines were in close proximity to each other; only 24km apart.

The Peak Downs mine had also been praised recently for its high intake of young female mining apprentices.

On 6 February, BMA announced it was launching a four-week Work Readiness Program, of which 16 of the 31 apprentices were women.

The program, run in conjunction with the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA) and Moranbah State High School’s Coalfields Training Excellence Centre, prepared apprentices for their fulltime roles at six BMA mines.

BMA Peak Downs general manager Sean Milfull said the business was excited to be investing in the future, with the induction of 31 trade apprentices in 2017.

BMA Peak Downs Mine general manager Sean Milfull said the health, safety and wellbeing of its people was central to the organisation and the Work Readiness Program.

 “In partnership with the QMEA we look forward to collectively providing a supportive learning and mentoring environment for our new apprentices, with the Work Readiness Program offering the perfect starting point,’’ Mr Milfull said.

“This program ensures that from day one our new apprentices will work safely and be productive members of their maintenance teams.”

Community engagement

BMA prides itself on involving itself in projects that benefit the local community.

One of its latest initiatives included a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) tour for a group of Moranbah State High School students.

The tour, held over four days late March, saw 20 students attend events at the World Science Festival and visit BHP Billiton offices, as part of the ‘Building Pathways for Diverse Futures’ partnership between BMA and the school.

The $450,000 three year extra-curricular program helped students develop their future career paths through mentoring and extended education and training.

BMA was also involved in similar programs at Dysart and Blackwater.

“This is going to be a wonderful opportunity for these students to touch, feel and see the possibilities for their future careers through maths and the sciences,’’ Moranbah State High School Coalfields Training Excellence Centre careers transition officer Tracy Mawson said.

“Their visit to BHP Billiton’s offices will showcase how cutting-edge technology is enabling advances in integration across BHP Billiton’s Bowen Basin coal operations that is leading the way in modern mining.’’

In October last year, BMA also held its annual Make It Now in Engineering (MINE) challenge in Moranbah.

The program saw Year 11 and 12 students work alongside geologists, engineers and mine staff at Goonyella Riverside and Peak Downs, and stay in the Civeo Village for a week to experience life as a fly-in-fly-out worker.

Goonyella Riverside mine general manager Mark Swinnerton said the challenge enabled students to get hands on experience in the mining sector.

 “The BMA MINE Challenge allows students to not only work with other students from around the state but also provides them with the unique opportunity to learn directly from those already working in the resources industry,” Mr Swinnerton said.

BMA will continue its work with the local school communities throughout 2017, as well as advancing innovation and collaboration with the industry and METS businesses in the sector.