The Baralaba coal mine is an open pit operation located in the Baralaba town in Queensland, Australia. The mine occupies 8km² and forms part of a 550km² zone of Cockatoo Coal-owned exploration projects. Cockatoo Coal had acquired the mine in December 2008 from Peabody Pacific. The company holds 62.5% of Baralaba Coal, which wholly owns the mine. JFE Shoji Trade Corporation holds the remaining 37.5% in Baralaba Coal.
Operations at the mine were suspended in December 2010 after severe rains in the region caused the pit to flood. With heavy rains hitting Queensland, coal mines with a minimum annual production of 80Mt, accounting for 30% of Australia’s coal exports, were put under force majeure during the last quarter of 2010.
Production was resumed in May 2011 following a detailed pit dewatering programme that commenced in January 2011. The dewatering programme delivers access to exposed mining benches. A phased dewatering / mining programme continues even while the mine returns to a normal production capacity of approximately 50,000t per month.
The Baralaba North project to expand the open-cut coal mining to the north of the existing Baralaba Coal Mine was approved in 2013 and mining operations at the expansion project started in May 2014.
The mine hosts 2.5Mt of resources in the measured category. Indicated and inferred resources (including Baralaba north and south) are estimated at 15Mt and 76.8Mt respectively.
The Baralaba mine lies in the south-eastern limb of the Bowen Basin. It is found within the eastern edge of the north-north-west striking Mimosa Syncline. The deposit extends over a strike length of 92km and occurs as subcrop along the Rangal coal measures.
The late Permian aged Rangal coal measures, also known as the Baralaba coal measures, are stratigraphically positioned between intervals of abundant tuffs and the Rewan group. They host semi-anthracitic rank coal that can be used for both Pulverised Coal Injection (PCI) and thermal purposes. Major characteristics include grey coloured sediments and absence of tuffaceous beds. The coal measures are covered by weathered sediments and 14m to 50m thick alluvial sand.
Tight folding and thrust faulting at the zone has led to formation of steeply dipping coal seams. Regionally, the seams dip towards south west. Due to the influence of Dawson structural zone, a significant structure of the southern Bowen basin, the seams are locally found to be very steep.
To date, a total of 43 seam splits have been identified at the deposit. Coal is mined from 13 seams. The seams being mined have intersected coal seams in the Baralaba North deposit area. The deposit remains open to the east, north and south.
Production at the mine commenced in October 2005, three years prior to the acquisition by Cockatoo Coal.
Production in the last quarter of 2010 stood at 54,287t, a fall of 65% from the production of 156,145t in the last quarter of 2009, and 48% from the 103,885t quarterly production achieved in the previous quarter that ended in September 2010. The mine produced 181,081t of run of mine coal during the year ended June 2011.
The mine’s design capacity is 1Mtpa. The production is planned to be ramped up to 0.75Mt by 2012 and 3Mtpa by 2015.
A staged expansion of the mine is in pipeline with the aim of continuing mining towards north of the present operations.
Mining and processing
The mining contract worth A$30m for Baralaba coal was awarded in July 2009 to Huddy’s Mining Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Industrea.
Standard truck and shovel method is considered to be the most suitable for the area due to the generally soft overburden and geological constraints including the presence of steeply dipping seams and faults. Selective mining techniques are used to extract different coal types. The mined coal undergoes crushing and screening to produce the final product.
Baralaba North Expansion project
The Baralaba North Project, a metallurgical coal mining operation located approximately 10km north of the Baralaba township, will have an initial production capacity of 1Mtpa, which is expected to increase to 3.5Mtpa in the future.
The coal output from the Baralaba North operation will be exported through Gladstone at both the exiting RG Tanna Coal terminal and the new Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal.
TMM Group was contracted by Cockatoo Coal to complete the design and civil works required to develop the Baralaba North Mine. The contract value was approximately of $32m.
Cockatoo Coal commissioned the Liebherr R 996 B, one of the world’s biggest mining excavators, at the Baralaba North in March 2014. SEDGMAN Yeats was contracted for the engineering design and construction documentation services for the Baralaba North Project.
Baralaba South Expansion project
Feasibility studies are underway for the Baralaba South new open cut coal mine located approximately 6km to the southeast of the Baralaba township. The expansion has potential to produce up to 4Mtpa of product coal per annum.