The Mount Pleasant coal mine at Muswellbrook, NSW, has applied to extend its lifespan by 22 years and double the amount of coal extracted each year.

Joint venture owners MACH Energy and JCD Australia have lodged an Environmental Impact Statement with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

The proposal will increase the extraction, processing, and processing of run-of-mine (ROM) coal from the current rate of 10.5mt to 21mt per year.

The project will increase open cut extraction within the Mount Pleasant  leases by mining of additional coal reserves, including lower coal seams in North Pit.

The EIS is seeking staged upgrades to the existing coal handling and prep plant and coal handling infrastructure to facilitate the handling and processing of additional coal.

Mach also seeks to transport up to about 17Mtpa of product coal to domestic and export customers by rail; make upgrades to workshops, electricity distribution and other ancillary infrastructure; and relocate existing infrastructure to aid the mining extensions.

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The company aims to build and operate water management and water storage infrastructure in support of the mine and additional reject dewatering facilities, to allow co-disposal of fine rejects with waste rock as part of ROM waste rock operations.

“The proposed staging of ROM coal production will result in a gradual increase in operational employment in the project, which is expected to peak in 2041,” the EIS said.

“This gives service providers enough time to plan small changes related to the region’s population, as well as the closure or downfall of other mines that are expected to occur during the life of the project.

Mach said its rehabilitation and closure plans were designed to ensure that vegetation restoration and post-mining land use are compatible with the surrounding environment.

As well, the Optimisation Project includes an increase in average operational workforce to about 600 people, with a peak of about 830 people; giving up part of the approved disturbance area to compensate for new disturbance areas; and use of innovative mine landform design to provide topographic relief and more natural exterior appearance of waste rock emplacement landforms.

The proposal will increase the extraction, processing, and processing of ROM coal from the current rate of 10.5mt to 21mt per year.

Contractors

Thiess was contracted in 2017 to undertake mining operations as well as provide mine planning and engineering services at Mount Pleasant until 2021.

Before mining operations began, Thiess developed site systems and processes, mobilised and assembled plant from across four states, and recruited and trained personnel.

The team also safely prepared the explosives facilities and stripped topsoil from mining areas.

The workforce has been built up with a focus on developing a strong performance culture. This culture values everyone’s contribution equally and is based on providing local opportunities.

More than 80% of Mount Pleasant Operation’s workforce lives locally.

The mine has attracted a diverse workforce with female and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation.

Mount Pleasant also engages a local Indigenous organisation to provide labour, machinery and cleaning services.

Today, Thiess is responsible for providing a full mining service and increasing mining production to 10.5mt ROM per annum.

The team is also undertaking progressive rehabilitation. Works commenced less than six months after overburden removal began, and prior to coal mining.

Thiess partnered with Caterpillar and WesTrac to trial autonomous drilling at the Mount Pleasant coal mine in April 2020.

A new Caterpillar MD6250 rotary drill rig has been deployed for the automatic drilling pilot project which is expected to continue until 2021 at the site.

Calibre DRA, a joint venture of DRA Pacific and G&S Engineering, was awarded a contract worth $149m for the design and construction of the train load-out facility and the CHPP.

Whittens was subcontracted by G&S Engineering Services for the bulk earthworks and civil construction works for the project, while Sedgman received the operations and maintenance (O&M) contract for the CHPP.

History and Geography

The Mount Pleasant open-pit coal mining operation is owned and operated by the Mount Pleasant Joint Venture, comprising MACH Energy Australia (95%) and Japan Coal Development Australia (JCDA, 5%).

MACH Energy acquired the coal asset from Rio Tinto for about $220.7m excluding royalties in August 2016 and started construction on the project in the same year.

It formed a joint venture with JCDA in May 2018 while the first coal from the project was started in December 2018.

The on-going operation is fully consented to produce up to 10.5mt per annum of ROM fine coal until 2026.

The coal resources of the mine are hosted within the Vane and Jerrys Plains subgroups of the Wittingham Coal Measures belonging to the late Permian age. 

The proven and probable reserves of the mine are estimated to be 667Mt, while the measured and indicated coal resources are estimated to be 1.1bt. 

The Mount Pleasant Operation operates on a 24 hour a day, seven-day a week roster.

The Mount Pleasant Operation operates on a 24 hour a day, seven-day a week roster.

Processes

The open-cut mining method involving blasting, truck, and shovel operations is implemented at the mine.

The four open pits at the Mount Pleasant mine include the South Pit, North Pit, Warkworth South Pit, and the Piercefield Pit.

The ROM coal is trucked to an onsite coal handling and preparation plant (CHPP) where it undergoes sizing, screening, de-sliming, and washing for the production of final product coal.

The CHPP comprises two coal processing modules with a combined capacity of 1500tph.

The final coal product from the plant is sent to a train load-out facility for transportation via the Muswellbrook-Ulan Rail Line. The coal is further transported on the Main Northern Railway to domestic customers or to the Port of Newcastle for export.

The coal mine is accessed from the Wybong Road and the electricity for the project is sourced through a 22kV powerline connecting a 66kV substation located near the CHPP.

The water for the project is sourced from the Hunter River and stored in localised tanks. 

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