The Ulan Mine Complex is situated within the Western Coalfields of New South Wales. The Ulan Mine Complex lies within the Mid-Western Regional Council (MWRC) Local Government Area, located near the village of Ulan in the central west of NSW, approximately 45 kilometres north-north-east of Mudgee and 25 kilometres north-east of Gulgong.
The Ulan Mine Complex covers an approximate area of 17,959 hectares and is located at the headwaters of the Goulburn and Talbrager River catchments.
Ulan Coal Mines Limited (UCML) is an underground producer of high quality thermal coal mined from the Ulan Seam which is a geological sequence within the broader Permian Illawarra Coal Measures.
Under current approvals, UCML can extract and produce up to 10 million tonnes per year of product coal and transport it by rail to either domestic customers or to port for export overseas.
UCML operates a twenty four hour operation and includes a coal handling a preparation plant (CHPP), conveyors, a drag line, stockpiles, a rail to port facility, administration buildings, and an underground access point. Open cut mining ceased in 2008 as the approved resource had been exhausted.
Ulan Mine is situated within the Western Coalfields of NSW, located near the village of Ulan in the central west of NSW, approximately 45 kilometres north-north-east of Mudgee and 25 kilometres north-east of Gulgong. Ulan Mine is located at the headwaters of the Goulburn River Catchment.
Geology & Mineralization
The Ulan Mine Complex is at the western limit of the geological formation known as the Sydney Basin and at the southern end of the Gunnedah Sub-basin. The resource coal targeted for extraction is from the Illawarra Coal Measures, which are of Permian age and overlain by sedimentary formations of varying thickness and types including sandstones, shales and alluvium. Ten coal seams (nine in the west) occur within the coal measures; eight occur above (seven in the west) and one below the Ulan Seam. These seams range in thickness from approximately 0.4 to 10 metres (with the Ulan Seam being thickest).
Apart from the Ulan Seam, all seams within the mining leases are considered uneconomic in the current market due to their high ash content. In underground operations the lower three-metre section of the Ulan seam, this is referred to as the "D Working Section" (DWS), is mined to produce Ulan "premium" coal that has an ash specification of 12.5%.
Current planning is for the open cut extension to mine the full seam, and the underground operations (Ulan West) will mine the lower section of the Ulan seam. The lower section has low ash content and an average thickness of 2.75 metres; varying from 2.4 metres in the north-west, and up to 3 metres in the south.
Within the areas to be worked throughout the mine life, the depth of cover will generally increase where extraction progresses toward the north east, due to a combination of topography and a dipping seam.
Open cut mining will, however, only be undertaken for approximately 7 to 11 years when commenced. It will produce 1 million tonnes per year of thermal coal. Underground mining will continue for the life of the mine. The new Ulan West is to produce 7 million tonnes per year starting with 2014. Open cut mining methods utilize a combination of dragline and truck and loader methods. Underground mining activities utilize longwall retreat and continuous mining methods.
All underground coal is conveyed to the surface stockpiles by the coal clearance conveyor system. Underground coal that does not require washing is crushed and conveyed directly to the product stockpiles in preparation for railing offsite. The higher ash coal is trucked to the coal wash plant reclaim stockpile where it is picked up by a reclaimer and conveyed to the coal handling preparation plant (CHPP).
Open cut overburden, commonly referred to as the material above the coal seam, is fractured by blasting and then removed by either dragline or excavator and truck operation to expose the Ulan Seam. The coal is then blasted and removed in two strips, above and below a clay band by frontend loader and truck operation. Blasting is restricted during adverse meteorological conditions to minimize potential impacts on private neighboring residents. Trucks transport the coal to the in-pit Dump Hopper where it is tipped to a crusher located below.
The crushed coal is then transported by conveyor to the Run of Mine (ROM) stockpile, where it is picked up by a reclaimer and conveyed to the coal handling preparation plant (CHPP). Product coal is stockpiled prior to transport by rail to the east primarily to the Newcastle Port. Coal may also be railed to domestic customers as required.
Coal quality is carefully monitored and controlled during all phases of production and preparation. The quality of the insitu coal has been determined by detailed core sampling and analysis. Coal from the underground operation is monitored by an on-line ash sampler analyser as it travels along the coal clearance conveyor system to the surface.
The quality of the saleable product is monitored by an automatic sampler which is located on the conveyor to the product stockpile. The coal in each train is sampled and analyzed during discharge at the Port of Newcastle. During ship loading operations the coal is sampled and analysed by an independent and certified superintending company.
Ulan produces thermal coal which is highly volatile with strong combustion characteristics. This coal is sold domestically and internationally for use in power generation and general industry use. All the Ulan Premium Coal is exported overseas.
In 2011, Ulan mining operations produced 3,940 kt from established underground operations and 572 kt from the box cut at the new Ulan West underground operation.
The coal handling and preparation plant (CHPP) has a flexible 1800 tph raw coal receivals system.
The CHPP utilizes dense medium baths, dense medium cyclones and water washing cyclones to separate rejects from thermal coal product for both the domestic and export markets.
Coarse rejects are trucked from a receivals bin and incorporated into the mining cycle. Tailings are thickened and pumped to reject emplacement dam.
Product coal is stacked onto product stockpiles and reclaimed by a 2000 tph rail mounted bucket wheel declaimer to a 1750 t rail load out bin for rail transport to Eraring Power Station or the Port of Newcastle coal terminals.
To accommodate the increased ROM coal production associated with the expansion of the operation to a 20 mtpa mining complex, we have proposed to upgrade the capacity of the CHPP by adding another module. The inclusion of a middling circuit will result in improved CHPP processing resource recovery (up to 90 per cent plant yield) by removing the need to re-process coarse reject coal and therefore increasing both operational and energy efficiency.
Environment & Community
The Environmental Management System is aligned to the principles of ISO14001 (2004), Xstrata plc’s Business Principles and Sustainable Development Policy and XCN’s Environmental Management Framework (EMF).
The primary objective of rehabilitation and revegetation of the post-mining disturbance areas, in particular the post open cut disturbance area, will be to create a stable final landform with acceptable post-mining land use capability, being self-sustaining native vegetation communities characteristic of the pre-mining composition.
The mine’s on-going support for the local community is demonstrated by significant investments and Corporate Social Involvement activities, which includes donations, sponsorship and in-kind assistance for a range of environmental, community and educational initiatives.