Rio Tinto opens expansion of its Kestrel Mine in Australia
Despite difficult conditions in the Australian coal market, Rio Tinto opened its new $US2 billion Emerald Mine in central Queensland.
Rio Tinto’s energy division boss Harry Kenyon-Slaney spoke at the opening of the mine and warned that it was crucial that the operation remain focused on costs if it is to succeed.
“To be blunt – in recent times the focus for the Australian coal industry has been more on the survival than on the development of new mines,” he said.
The new underground mine is an extension of an existing operation, adding 20 years to the life of the Rio Tinto-managed Kestrel Mine as well as increasing production of hard coking coal to around 6 M/a (6.6 million stpy), The Australian reported.
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls said while the doomsayers said the boom was over and coal was on the way out, Kestrel South was further evidence to the contrary.
“The coal industry in Queensland continues to look to the future and develop new mines while exporting record tonnages from existing ones,” he said.
The treasurer said in July and August there had been a return to pre-GFC volumes coming through the coal ports. The total for the two months was just over 34 Mt (37 million st) and he said that indications were that he September totals would also be good.
Kenyon-Slaney said the Kestrel extension had delivered one of the most advanced and sophisticated underground coking coal operations built in Australia.
“It is equipped with a new level of automation that will deliver significant safety and production improvements,” he said.
Rio Tinto manages Kestrel Mine on behalf of the joint venture partners Queensland Coal and Mitsui Kestrel Coal Investment.
The extension, which uncovered its first glimpse of coal in July 2011 at a depth of about 250 m, has taken more than six million hours to build, using more than 3.4 kt (3,700 st) of steel.