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The Wilpinjong coal mine is located in New South Wales, Australia, approximately 40km north-east of Mudgee and ten kilometres south-east of the Ulan mine. Spread over 2,800ha, the mine began operations in late 2006.
It is owned by Peabody Energy, which acquired the property from Excel Coal in late 2006. Mining operations are carried out by Thiess on a contractual basis.
Peabody Energy completed an expansion project in March 2013, to increase production at the mine.
Geology and reserves present at the Ulan Seam
The Wilpinjong mine accesses the Ulan Seam, a 15m-thick seam that has consistently produced a high quality of coal for more than 30 years. The seam is hosted at the base of the Permian aged Illawarra coal measures.
It consists of ten plies, including plies of good quality coal, high ash coal, stony coal and partings of claystone, carbonaceous claystone, tuffs and other non-coal lithologies.
The working plies at the Ulan seam are inter-bedded with clay stone and siltstone horizons. The seam is shallow and sub crops in the deposit area.
It is characterised by a north-east shallow and relatively consistent dip of one to three degrees. The mine contains 201mt of recoverable reserves.
Production from the Australian coal mine
The mine produced approximately 12.5mt of thermal coal in 2012. It supplies 7.7mt of the produced coal to Macquarie Generation under a 19-year contract that was commissioned in 2007. The remaining coal is exported to Asian customers. The mine contains 201mt of recoverable reserves.
An expansion project was approved in July 2010, to boost the annual production by 2mt to 3mt. The expansion required an investment of $90m of which $20m was earmarked for 2010.
The expansion included several thermal and metallurgical coal projects of Peabody Energy that are expected to boost the company’s annual production in Australia to up to 30mt by 2014. The expansion was completed in March 2013.
Mining and processing at Wilpinjong
The deposit is mined using open cut methods. Due to the shallow geological setting of the coal seam and the working thickness of the coal plies, underground mining methods were considered uneconomical for the deposit. The open pit method includes a truck and shovel fleet. The strip ratio averages at less than 2.5 to one bank cubic metres per run-of-mine tonne.
The waste rock is disposed of at an adjacent open cut void. Temporary out-of-pit mine waste rock emplacements have been established to provide limited storage to the mine’s waste rock material. The waste rock is used to backfill the open pit.
Processing is carried out in the Wilpinjong preparation facility. The plant crushes and washes approximately 30% of the mine’s raw coal. Approximately 75% of the product coal is raw domestic thermal, while 25% is washed export thermal coal.
The specific energy of the mined coal is 6,750kcal/kg. The ash content and sulphur content are 15% and 0.50% respectively. The total moisture is nine percent.
The final product is transported via rail to the Port of Newcastle for export and also to various domestic destinations. Peabody signed a ten-year agreement in January 2012 with the Australian Rail Track Corporation for below-rail track access in the Hunter Valley rail network. The agreement enables the transportation of expansion volumes from the Wilpinjong mine.
Contractors involved with NSW’s Wilpinjong coal mine
Thiess is the mining contractor for the project. The company has been providing mining services since 2007. The scope of the $230m contract ($100m for construction and $130m for operations) included earthworks, civil concrete works, rail and load-out facilities, structural fabrication and erection, electricals and controls, and testing and commissioning. The contract, which was awarded in 2007, included a five-year mining, coal beneficiation and handling agreement.
In June 2011, the contract was further extended for 15 months, until March 2013.
The contract for the design and construction of the coal clearance and processing plant, stockpiling and related train loading facilities was awarded to a joint venture of Thiess and Sedgman.
Tenova-SEMF was the contractor for a 1,800tph radial coal stacker at the mine site. The contract, valued at $2.6m, included engineering design, documentation, procurement and project management services.
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