Isaac Plains Coal Mine, Australia


The Isaac Plains Coal mine is an open-pit mine located in Central Queensland, in the Bowen Basin region, about 7km east of the Moranbah township. The mine comprises two coal deposits, Isaac Plains North deposit and Isaac Plains South deposit, which are located approximately 15km apart.

The construction of coal processing facilities and the related power, water, road and rail infrastructure began at Isaac Plains North deposit in 2006.

The integrated Isaac Plains project includes mining operations at both Isaac Plains deposits.

The project will initially mine the Leichardt coal seam hosted within Isaac Plains North. It will later mine both the Leichardt and Vermont coal seams found within the Isaac Plains South pit.

The project is owned jointly by Aquila Resources and Vale Australia. The mine has an expected lifespan of more than 17 years.

Isaac Plains coal mine reserves

The mine has an estimated 26mt of proven reserves found within the Isaac Plains North deposit. The north deposit also contains 2mt probable reserves. Approximately 37.5mt of probable reserves are estimated at the Isaac Plains South deposit.

Isaac Plains mining and processing

Mining is carried out using both truck and shovel methods in addition to dragline techniques. In 2009, a Bucyrus-Erie 1370 dragline was relocated from US to the Mackay for use in the Isaac Plains North deposit. It will be used for the Isaac Plains South deposit.

"The project is owned jointly by Aquila Resources and Vale Australia."

Coal is delivered to an on-site coal handling and preparation plant (CHPP) where it is crushed, sized and washed.

The CHPP is equipped with a belt filter, which allows for the dry removal of tailings via trucking, thereby avoiding the requirement of constructing a tailings dam.

The rejected coarse and fine coal is sent back to the pit and buried in the overburden. Processing and railing take place at the current Isaac Plains North facilities. The processed coal is transported via rail to the Dalrymple Bay Terminal from where it is exported.

Mine production

"Mining is carried out using both truck and shovel methods in addition to dragline techniques."

The mine produces 75% metallurgical and 25% thermal coal products, which are exported from the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal. During the last quarter of 2009, the mines produced 601,910t of product coal. Despite bad weather and the appointment of a new mining contractor, the production was only 5% below budget, calculated on a year-to-date basis.

The project will produce 3.6mt a year of run-of-mine (ROM) coal, producing 2.8mt a year of product coal. Environmental approval to expand production to 3.6Mt was received on 26 April 2010. Full production ramp-up will be supported by phase two expansion at the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal, which was completed in June 2009.

Expansion

Approximately $50m has been invested on buying and refurbishing the mine’s dragline. The expansion project, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010, will cost about $36m. During the construction phase, nearly 100 people will be employed.

Mining contracts

Between October and December 2009, the mining operations were divided into two main contracts. The contract for the mining operations has been awarded to John Holland on behalf of Isaac Plains Coal Management.

"During the last quarter of 2009, the mines produced 601,910t of product coal."

Valued at about $260m, the 30-month contract will include clearing, stripping of top soil, drilling and blasting, waste removal using truck excavator, coal mining, transportation of rejects, dump profiling and rehabilitation works.

Nearly 26 million cubic metres of waste and 3.6mt of ROM coal will be removed in the first year of contract. An interim contract was entered into in October 2009.

The final contract entered into on 1 January 2010 is scheduled to be completed by 2012. By the end of 2009, John Holland has commissioned the equipment and, at the same time, completed the production ramp up.

The contract for the beneficiation operations has been awarded to Ascentis. The scope of the four-year contract includes operation and maintenance of the CHPP. The contract was initially for two years but was extended to four years in 2009.