Peabody Energy intends to increase the Millennium mine coal production by 3.6Mtpa through the Millennium Expansion Project (MEP). Image courtesy of Peabody Energy.
The expansion project will follow the current truck and excavator terrace mining method being implemented by Millennium. Image courtesy of Peabody Energy.
NQ Group is supplying heavy haulage equipment for the MEP. Image courtesy of NQ Group.

Millennium Coal Pty Limited (MCPL), a subsidiary of Peabody Energy, proposes to increase the Millennium mine coal production from 1.9Mtpa to 5.5Mtpa under the Millennium Expansion Project (MEP). It is anticipated to produce an additional 3.6Mtpa of product coal for export, following the expansion.

The project received approval for a voluntary environmental impact assessment from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection in 2011.

The project is anticipated to extend the current mine life of the Millennium mine to 2027, which was otherwise expected to be decommissioned in 2015.

The MEP is expected to require an initial capital investment of $276m, and $225m a year for operational expenditure.

Millennium Expansion Project location, geology, and mineralisation

The Millennium mine is a premium hard coking coal and PCI coal-producing mine located within the Bowen Basin and situated approximately 22km east of Moranbah and 16km south-west of Coppabella. It is contained within Mining Lease (ML) 70313, ML Application 70401 and Mineral Development Licence (MDL) 136.

The expansion project is located on the western-central portion of the Bowen Basin, where Permian strata strike north-northwest and dip gently to the east, off the Comet Ridge.

“The project is anticipated to extend the current mine life of the Millennium mine to 2027, which was otherwise expected to be decommissioned in 2015.”

Multiple faults associated with the Jellinbah Fault system, a strike slip, reverse fault system have affected the project geology.

The target resource of the project is contained within the Leichhardt, Millennium, and Vermont seams of the Rangal Coal Measures. The coal seams are interbedded with fine-grained and low-permeability sediments and sandstones. The average seam thickness is 3.6m, while the interburden thickness ranges between 18m and 36m.

The Rangal Coal Measures are located between the Permian Fort Cooper Coal Measures and the Triassic Rewan Group. Most of the MEP area is covered with a veneer of Triassic Rewan sediments, while the Quaternary-aged alluvium associated with the Isaac River overlies the Triassic-Permian sequence in the southern region.

Mining and processing of coal at the MEP

Operating since 2005, the Millennium coal mine uses open-cut truck and excavator terrace mining methods. The proposed expansion project will follow the existing mining method, while electric shovels and/or a dragline are proposed to be used at a later stage.

Also being considered is the use of dragline, highwall mining and/or underground methods of mining.

The run-of-mine coal will be hauled by trucks and transported to the existing coal handling and processing plant owned by Red Mountain joint venture (RMJV). The plant uses a traditional process involving crushing, washing and gravity separation with minimal use of chemicals such as diesel, MIBC and flocculant.

The current ROM and product stockpile area’s size will be hiked to meet the additional throughput of the MEP.

Product coal will be transported by conveyor to the train load-out system at a maximum rate of 5,000tph (tonnes per hour). Coal will be transported approximately 170km to the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT) and loaded onto ships for export.

Infrastructure at the Millennium Expansion project

The MEP will make use of most of the existing infrastructure facilities of the Millennium mine, while upgrading or relocating some of the facilities to improve efficiency.

The mine will be accessed through the privately installed and maintained Millennium/Poitrel mine access road, connecting to the south of the Peak Downs Highway.

MEP will also use the current Red Mountain Rail Loop (RMRL), servicing the Millennium Mine, connected to the existing Norwich Park branch railway line transporting coal directly to the DBCT. An estimated 240 train movements a year happen on the line from the Millennium Mine, while the MEP will increase the same to 368.

Power for the expansion project will be supplied from the existing 66kV overhead transmission line that currently supplies to the mine and associated infrastructure. The current power supply will be upgraded if electrically-powered mining equipment is introduced.

Process water for the MEP will be supplied from the West Dam catchment and the Burdekin Dam.

The construction and operations contractors and personnel will be accommodated at the MAC accommodation villages at Coppabella and Moranbah.

Key players involved with the MEP

NQ Group is the supplier of heavy haulage equipment for the Millennium Expansion project. Peabody proposes to continue Downer EDI Mining, the mining contractor for the Millennium mine, for the expansion project as well.