Anglo American plc is moving to expand its metallurgical coal operations in Central Queensland’s Bowen Basin with one of the most technologically advanced underground mines in the world, following the approval of its Aquila project by the company’s Board.
Aquila is an underground hard coking coal mine near Middlemount, which will extend the life of Anglo American’s existing Capcoal underground operations by six years, to 2028, and continue to optimise the Capcoal complex.
The complex consists of the Capcoal Open Cut Mine, the Grasstree underground operations, and associated infrastructure, positioned approximately 60 kilometres South-West of the township of Middlemount.
The Capcoal complex is a joint venture between Mitsui & Co. Ltd. (30 per cent equity share) and Anglo American (70 per cent) (Operator).
In 2018, the Capcoal Open Cut produced 2 million tonnes of metallurgical coal products and Grasstree produced 3.6 million tonnes of hard coking coal (attributable).
Exports are shipped from the Gladstone Port and Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal near Mackay.
With an expected capital cost of US$226 million (Anglo American share), development work on an expansion is anticipated to commence in September 2019, with first longwall production of premium quality hard coking coal targeted for early 2022.
Chief Executive Officer of Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business, Tyler Mitchelson, detailed that Aquila was an important growth project for the business, and would provide ongoing employment opportunities for the company’s Grasstree workforce as the mine reaches its end of life.
“The Aquila project is a key part of our long term business strategy, as we continue to optimise existing capacity in our operations,” Mr Mitchelson said.
“Aquila will have a total average annual saleable production of around five million tonnes of premium quality hard coking coal, used in steel production for critical building and infrastructure around the world.”
“Importantly, the project will provide continuity for our local workforce, with planning underway to transition employees to Aquila from Grasstree, as it approaches its end of life.”
The mine will also adopt Anglo American’s FutureSmart MiningTM program, which applies innovative thinking and technological advances to address mining’s major operational and sustainability challenges.
Mr Mitchelson said that the Aquila Mine will be developed as one of the most technologically advanced underground mines in the world.
“We will pursue remote operation of the Aquila longwall, ensuring our people are removed from harm’s way, and the continued digitisation of our operations, using new technologies such as our Australian-first intrinsically safe underground electronic tablets,” he explained.
“The accelerating pace of technological innovation, particularly in the digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence areas, are opening up opportunities for the mining sector to be safer, more productive and sustainable.”
“As the largest underground coal miner in Australia, we are leveraging the innovative work already underway at our existing mine sites and scaling the development of new technologies in our operations,” Mr Mitchelson concluded.