DESPITE potential softening in the resources market, Centennial Coal has been on a buying spree of rolling stock during the past year. The NSW-based company, acquired by Thailand’s Banpu two years ago, is also continuing with expansion at a number of its mine sites. Centennial, which supplies domestic and overseas markets, has grown to fuel about 40 per cent of NSW’s coal-fired electricity generating capacity, according to the company.
It owns seven underground and open-pit mines outright, and operates four others under joint venture agreements in the north and west of NSW.
The miner has a total annual production capacity of more than 19 million tonnes of thermal and coking coal.
In the past 13 months, Centennial has bought a significant amount of equipment for its rail lines and mines. In July, the company and its rail operator Southern Shorthaul Railroad, completed their fleet
of seven by buying two new 4400 horsepower C44ACi locomotives from manufacturers UGL and GE.
The purchase represented another increase in Centennial’s business: the company’s haulage capacity has nearly doubled in recent years, and it set an internal record in May by hauling almost 770,000t of coal to port.
“Essentially, these locomotives have delivered greater operational flexibility and increased capacity, reinvigorating our coal supply chain,” Centennial chief executive David Moult said during the handover at the UGL production facility in Broadmeadow.
“We’re setting new benchmarks in performance which are opening up new opportunities in meeting increased market demand locally here in Australia and throughout Asia.”
The locomotive purchase followed a contract Centennial signed with Diversified Mining Services (DMS) in October 2011 in which Centennial acquired “multiple” Atlas Copco Coaltram utility vehicles for use at several of its underground mine sites.
The actual number of units was not disclosed, but each cost about $1 million, according to DMS. Centennial’s growth has not been without challenges, however.
In January, the NSW Government approved the expansion of the company’s Myuna mine and the company announced plans to extend operations at its Mannering colliery.
The Government accepted Centennial’s plans for Myuna despite concerns from environmental groups about the project’s impact on Lake Macquarie.
While the coal company maintained that there would be no significant impact on creatures on the lake’s bed, environmentalists disputed that assessment.
The Hunter-Central Rivers
Catchment Management Authority stated that at least 15 square kilometres of the lake would be affected.
The Government, however, sided with Centennial and said the extension would “generally result in minimal” impact.
The mine runs beneath Lake Macquarie in three seams with a current production capacity of 1.5 million tonnes per annum.
The expansion is expected to increase production to 2mtpa. Myuna’s resources exceed 380mt of low sulphur thermal coal.
Meanwhile, Centennial plans to build up operations at its Mannering mine from two to three production units and work toward recommencing mining in the site’s Great Northern seam.
The extension of the underground operation could see an extra 256ha of land mined, also covering the Fassifern seam.
The company estimated that 3.2mt of run of mine coal could be extracted from Fassifern and about 1.4mt of ROM coal from the Great Northern seam. Although the colliery’s output would remain at 1.1mtpa in total, the coal provided to the Vales Power Point station would be of better quality.
In an effort to improve its environmental performance and reduce its impact, Mannering has implemented several energy efficient projects, resulting in annual savings of about 5550 gigajoules.
Workers at the mine have also installed a weather station to monitor rainfall, temperature and humidity to more accurately track site conditions.Operations Centennial owns five operating mines (Airly, Mandalong, Mannering, Myuna and Newstan), and two at which mining has ceased (Awaba and Ivanhoe). Four others – Angus Place, Charbon, Clarence and Springvale – are held in joint ventures: SK Kores Australia has a 50 per cent stake in Angus Place and Springvale; SK Energy Australia holds 5 per cent of Charbon and 15 per cent of Clarence. Centennial’s operations had a fairly good year in 2011, the latest period for which figures were made available.
Operations began at Airly in 2009 and production has continued to ramp up. Centennial reported that it expected the mine to reach its full capacity of 1.8mt during the next few years.
Recent improvements include sealing of the mine’s access road, and a drilling program was undertaken around Airly Mountain and the adjacent Gap to check geological data and establish groundwater monitoring  and measuring techniques.
Mandalong continued to be a steady performer in 2011, with 5.53mt extracted.
At Newstan, mining has taken place for more than 125 years. After the mine was placed on care and maintenance in 2008, Centennial embarked on an extensive exploration drilling program. As a result, Newstan went back online last year, producing 55,468t of coal.
It is expected to reach a capacity of 4mtpa and contains reserves of 68.3mt, the equivalent of about 20 years’ worth of mining.
Of the mines held in Joint Venture, Angus Place had a productive 2011, achieving daily, weekly and monthly production records en route to
producing 3.38mt for the year. Charbon, in the Western Coalfields near Kandos and Rylston, mainly produced export coal. It was the company’s only mine to utilise a monorail in conjunction with the
place-hanging method of development, which provided safety and operational benefits, according to the company.
It produced 1.2mt of coal last year and had a capacity of 1.3mtpa, with four years worth of reserves remaining.
An underground mine near Lithgow, Clarence had its best year as production exceeded 2mt of ROM coal, produced for the first time using the partial-extraction method.
Springvale, also near Lithgow, reached a milestone of 20 years in operation in 2011.
About 3mt was produced using underground longwall mining, and the majority of the coal was transported to Port Kembla for export.