RIO Tinto’s Blair Athol mine in Central Queensland has been officially shut down after nearly 30 years in operation and producing nearly 250 million tonnes of thermal coal.
Coal was discovered at the Bowen Basin site in 1864, but it wasn’t until 1984 that the first shipment of coal was exported (to Japan as part of a 72mt contract).
In the last five years, Rio Tinto has gradually scaled back the 12mt per annum operation, 24km northwest of Clermont, as the main coal seam was mined out.
According to the company’s Clermont region general manager operations Dawid Pretorius, the mine had a workforce of more than 400 people at its peak and was an “economic powerhouse for the region”.
“Rather than see the closing of Blair Athol mine as a sad day, the employees and suppliers of Blair Athol mine, who have played such an important part in the mine over the last 30 years, are reminiscing and celebrating the life of the mine and what the mine has achieved,” he said.
“It achieved outstanding results through the dedication of its workforce and was significant in that it had one of the thickest coal seams in Australia, extending to 30 metres deep in parts, as well as the latest excavating equipment such as the world’s largest ‘super dozer’ of the time.
“Not only has Blair Athol mine spent well over $1.4 billion with local businesses, underpinning the sustainability of the region, it also supported the construction of important community facilities including sewerage, recreational facilities, the Theresa Creek dam, and roads and local government infrastructure.”
Rio Tinto has progressively rehabilitated the site during the past few decades as land became available, and will continue to do so as part of the company’s long-term commitment to the region.
Mr Pretorius said the nearby Rio Tinto-managed Clermont mine, which opened in 2010, would continue Blair Athol’s legacy.