COAL: Mudgees future
Coal is one of the most important, burgeoning industries in the Mudgee region with the existing Ulan Coal, Wilpinjong and Charbon mines as well as proposed mines for Moolarben, Bylong, Running Stream and Airly.
Coal mines in the Mudgee region are part of a larger belt of coal deposits stretching from the Queensland border through Moree, Narrabri, Gunnedah, Dunedoo, Ulan, Bylong, Singleton, Newcastle, Muswellbrook, Rylstone-Kandos, Lithgow, Sydney, Wollongong, Port Kembla, and Bomaderry.
The Mudgee mines link the Gunnedah basin mines with the Western Coalfield, which also incorporates mines towards Lithgow, including proposed mines at Running Stream, Airly and Neubecks Creek near the Wallerawang Power Station.
The NSW Department of Mineral Resources has given many exploration licences covering the Mudgee to Lithgow region and following are the licence grants in April 2002 as an example:
”¢ Capertee – Genders Mining P/L x 3
”¢ Rylstone – Department of Mineral Resources
”¢ Capertee – Airly Coal P/L
”¢ Gulgong – Department of Mineral Resources
”¢ Gulgong – Ulan Coal Mines Ltd
”¢ Ulan – Department of Mineral Resources x2
”¢ Bylong – Anglo Coal (Bylong) P/L x2
”¢ Lithgow – Hartley Valley Coal Co P/L
”¢ Lithgow – Coalex P/L
”¢ Ulan – Ulan Coal Mines Ltd
”¢ Ben Bullen – Lithgow Coal Co Ltd. X2
”¢ Rylstone – Department of Mineral Resources
”¢ Ilford – Genders Mining P/L
”¢ Kandos – Charbon Coal P/L
The area is highly sought after by coal companies, eager to explore, as recent history has shown at Moolarben and other potential mining sites.
In May last year in the NSW Legislative Assembly the then Minister for Mineral Resources, Kerry Hickey, spoke on the Mudgee district mining exploration, saying six companies had competed for the five year exploration licence at Moolarben:
”¢ White Mining Ltd, which was awarded the licence in 2004.
”¢ Excel Mining Ltd.
”¢ Xstrata Coal (NSW) Pty Ltd.
”¢ Shri Krishna Fertilisers Pty Ltd.
”¢ Gloucester’s Coal Ltd.
”¢ Gallipoli Mining Pty Ltd.
Of the Moolarben coal exploration near Ulan, Mr Hickey said: “The Department of Mineral Resources has undertaken substantial drilling to identify the coal resource in that area.
“This initial exploration indicates that the Moolarben deposit contains about 300 million tonnes of thermal quality coal which may be suitable for underground extraction.
“Also, there are about 26 million tonnes of coal potentially suitable for open-cut extraction.”
Mr Hickey said the Government is determined to ensure that the State gets the maximum value from this coal resource through a comprehensive work program.
“The benefits of coal mining in the Central West extend from creating jobs and income to maintaining competitively priced electricity and attracting new industries to the State,” he said.
Mr Hickey said the call for expressions of interest for Moolarben was the latest move towards the responsible development of coal resources in the Central West.
Moolarben Mine is expected to bring 200 jobs in 2007-2008. It plans to spend $150 million to develop its underground mine and another $80 million to develop its open cut mine.
The Mudgee region is part of an area highly sought after by exploring coal companies, as recent activity involving a number of recent sites shows.
In December 2004 Mr Hickey granted an exploration licence to Wilpinjong Coal, a wholly owned subsidiary of Excel Mining, for the Wilpinjong coal development, also in the Ulan region.
Excel was one of Australia’s last independent coal companies until bought by the US Coal group Peabody Energy Corp earlier this month.
With work to open the mine well under way, Wilpinjong plans to spend $86 million this year alone, with annual operating costs of $131 million per annum.
Spokesman Peter Doyle said Wilpinjong would provide a $244 million stimulation to the local economy and pump $1.5 billion into the State economy during the lifetime of the mine.
The project will employ 200 people this year and 100 people in the future.
Wilpinjong Coal has given Thiess access to the site for construction and the first five years mining.
The Wilpinjong Project contains recoverable reserves of 257 million tonnes. Marketable reserves of around 160 million tonnes of domestic quality coal plus 30 million tonnes of export quality coal can be produced from the recoverable reserve by washing and bypassing components of the ROM production.
Approximately 120 million tonnes of the marketable reserve of domestic coal have been committed to Macquarie Generation under the long-term supply contract to supply coal to its Bayswater and Liddell power stations for a period of 19 years from 2007.
The operating company for the Bylong proposed mine is Anglo Coal (Bylong) Pty Limited. The proposed mining method is underground longwall operation and the exploration licence was granted in April 2002.
Charbon Open-Cut and Underground is located near Kandos and owned 95 percent by Centennial Coal Company. Charbon predominantly exports with some domestic sales. It has a production capacity of up to 1.2 million tonnes per annum.
Charbon’s surface facilities comprise modern rail loading facility and a dense-medium coal preparation plant.
Coal is transported by rail to Port Kembla for export and by road to the adjacent cement works.
Col Ribaux, a semi-retired miner and prospector, has mined and prospected all over Australia, including successfully mining diamonds in the Capertee Valley.
He says some of the State’s richest coal mining, with heavy coal deposits worth billions of dollars, lie east of Rylstone running to Capertee to Lithgow.
Mr Ribaux has an exploration licence in the area and over the past four years has spent $92,000 with his three partners exploring for coal in the Gardens of Stone area around Cullen Bullen, the Mt Airlie-Genowlan oil shale deposits and Capertee.
Their activities have attracted $1.5 million that Mr Ribaux says has been spent locally.
Mr Ribaux says the area holds large future coal reserves – reserves that Mr Ribaux says are threatened by the establishment of more and more national parks, forbidding coal mining.
According to the NSW Department of Primary Industries – Mineral Resources Division NSW Coal Industry Profile published in November 2005, there were 57 coal mines in NSW, 35 of them underground and 24 open cut.
According to the DPI, coal is the most important mineral mined in NSW.
It is the biggest export earner. It supplies NSW electricity and is used to make steel.
The main terminals for export coal are the Carrington and Koorangang coal terminals at Newcastle and the Port Kembla coal terminal.