BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) is Australia's largest coal miner and exporter, and the world's largest supplier to the seaborne coking coal market (28%).
Queensland's first coal mine was opened in 1892 near the town of Blackwater but it was a short lived operation. In 1960 the world's expanding steel industry needed more metallurgical coal and large scale coal exploration began in the Bowen Basin. In 1961 the first open pit coal mining operations began at Moura.
BMA owns and operates nine Queensland Bowen Basin mining operations:
- two underground operations
The Alliance also owns and manages the Poitrel and South Walker Creek open cut mines.
BMA's mines have a total capacity of 58 million tonnes of coal per year.
Coal is washed and then transported by railway to the Port of Hay Point located 38 km south of Mackay. The port is one of the world's largest coal export ports and at the same time one of Australia's most efficient ports.
The mines produce a large assortment of coal ranging from high energy thermal coal to hard coking coal. Their coal is being sold in 23 countries around the world including UK, Japan, Europe, South America, India and Korea.
In 2006, the mining operations employed a total of 9,400 people, contractors included. In 2009 coal production amounted to 60.2 Mt.
Queensland is a north-eastern Australian state nicknamed the Sunshine State because of its location at the Tropics. Brisbane is the state's capital city and Australia's third most populous city.
Most of the coal mining towns are located close to picturesque locations. For example, the 12,000 people city of Emerald is located only a few hours drive from the 30 km long and 600 m deep Carnarvon Gorge National Park and the Sapphire Gemfields. Moranbah is only 2 hours drive from some of the world's most beautiful beaches - the Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Tropical Islands - and Australia's largest rain forest reserve - the Eungella National Park. Blackwater is two hours drive from the coastal town of Yeppoon and close to the Blackdown Tablelands National Park.
Queensland's central and eastern coal deposits were formed over a period of time stretching from Carboniferous (350 million years old), to Permian (280 million years), Triassic (250 million years) and Jurassic (200 million years).
The 75,000 sq km Permian Bowen Basin hosts all of BMA's coal deposits. The basin occupies a 550 km long and up to 250 km wide triangular zone in central Queensland. It extends south beneath younger sediments and it connects with New South Wales' Sydney and Gunnedah Basins.
Bowen Basin's coal deposits vary in quality and rank, with rank increasing from west to east. The best coking coal - medium to high volatile bituminous - are to be found in the central part of the basin.
There are four groups of coal that have economic significance within the basin. Most of the BMA mines exploit the late Permian Group III while at the Blackwater they mine the Group IV coal.
The Group III coal has been shelf deposited in environments that vary from marine-deltaic to fluvial flood plain. In the south coal deposition was halted by a marine transgression. In the northern part of the basin coal deposition continued but was hindered by a period of volcanism - volcanic ash contaminated coal as to render them uneconomic.
Group IV coal witnesses the final phase of deposition in the Bowen Basin. They were deposited in fluviatile, lacustrine and paludal conditions. The coal are low in reactives and sulphur.
Exploration for high ranking coal commenced in 1961.
Mining & Operations
BMA owns and operates nine Bowen Basin mining operations: two underground operations (Gregory Crinum, Broadmeadow) and five surface operations (Goonyella Riverside, Peak Downs, Saraji, Norwich Park and Blackwater). The Alliance also owns and manages the Poitrel and South Walker Creek open cut mines.
Blackwater: 14mtpa capacity, coking and thermal coal.
Commenced production in 1967 and produces almost 14 Mtpa (million tones per year), therefore is being considered as one of the largest open-cut Australian operations. Six draglines are being used for overburden removal while two fleets of truck and shovels are paired for hauling. A 56 cubic meter rope shovel works with eight 300 t rear dump trucks; another 18 cubic meter hydraulic excavator loads a fleet made of seven 180 t rear dump trucks. Coal is mined by four front end loaders, a hydraulic shovel and fifteen 160 t capacity coal haulers.
Goonyella Riverside, OP, 15mtpa capacity, high quality coking coal.
The Goonyella merged with the adjacent Riverside mine in 1989. Nowadays the operation produces 14 Mtpa coking coal. Overburden is removed by enlisting the help of seven draglines - three Marion 8050, two BE 1370 and two BE 1350 - four truck and shovel fleets and a system consisting of a shovel, a sizer, a conveyor, and a spreader. Mining of the coal seams is done by two hydraulic excavators, 1 hydraulic face shovel, three front end loaders, and fourteen 220 t rear dump trucks.
Gregory (OP) Crinum (UG), 5mtpa capacity, coking and thermal coal.
Gregory open cut mine, which became operational in 1979, and Crinum an underground operation which started back in 1994. Since the start of the underground operation the open cut production has been scaled back. Gregory uses a single dragline for overburden removal; contract mining is being done by employing hydraulic excavators and trucks. Crinum is an underground operation that involves a retreat longwall mining method at depths between 80 m to 220 m. Coal is extracted from a block width of 270 m. The mine has a single longwall and two development panels.
Norwich Park, OP, 5mtpa capacity, low vol hard coking coal and ultra low vol coal.
Opened in 1979. Nowadays produces up to 5.7 Mtpa of coking coal and ultra volatile coal. Six draglines and four large dozers remove overburden. Coal is mined by two hydraulic excavators, two hydraulic shovels, and two front end loaders. It is hauled by a fleet of eight 220 t trucks.
Peak Downs, OP, 9mtpa capacity, high quality hard coking coal
Produced its first coking coal in 1972. It has a production capacity in excess of 8 Mtpa. Six draglines are matched with a fleet consisting of truck and shovels for overburden removal. Coal seams are mined by excavators, front end loaders; coal is transported by 250 t capacity coal haulers and rear dump trucks.
Saraji, OP, 8mtpa capacity, high grade coking coal.
Commenced production in late 1974. It produces high grade coking coal and has a capacity of 6 Mtpa. Current production is limited to five days per week and 5 Mtpa. Overburden removal is done by four draglines, and a few trucks and shovels. Coal mining is being done by a hydraulic excavator, two front end loaders and eight 160 t coal haulers.
South Walker Creek, 3.5mtpa capacity, PCI quality.
Produced its first low volatile, high energy coal in 1995. It is an open cut operation which has the overburden removed by a single dragline, two excavators and a fleet of rear dump trucks. Coal is being mined from four pits and is being transported by dedicated coal haulers. Annual production is currently 3.5 Mtpa.
Broadmeadow, UG, punch longwall, 3mtpa capacity, high quality hard coking coal.
A new underground operation (2005) located on the Goonyella Riverside lease. It produces coking coal at a capacity of 4 Mtpa.
Poitrel, OP, 3mtpa capacity, open cut
The newest mining operation to be developed by the Alliance - the first coal was produced in late 2006. It is designed for a 3 Mtpa capacity and produces coking and PCI coal.
In 2009 BMA coal production amounted to 60.2 Mt.
three coal preparation plants are in simultaneous use: two of them have a 900 tph washing capacity and a product conveyor capacity of 1,400 tph to 1,500 tph; and, a thermal coal plant boasting a 1,500 tph crushing and rail loadout facility.
Goonyella has a 2,200 tph feed capacity, while Riverside has a 1,700 tph feed capacity. Facilities are served by two train loadout systems having 5,000 tph and 3,300 tph capacity.
Gregory and Crinum
coal coming from Crinum is conveyed overland by a single-flight conveyor to the Gregory preparation plant. Coal is processed into three marketable products: hard coking coal, weak coking coal and thermal coal. Coarse rejects are trucked away then thickened and pumped to the reject emplacement dam.
boasts a coking coal preparation plant which has a 3,400 tph loadout conveyor capacity.
coal is processed in a local facility and delivered through a 3,000 tph loadout conveyor.
South Walker Creek
coal is washed in a 700 tph modular coal processing plant by employing a dense medium cyclone and fine coal spirals. The final coal product is used for Pulverized Coal Injection (PCI), and as blend coking coal or thermal coal.
coal is conveyed to a stockpile and then trucked to the Goonyella for processing.
coal processing and rail loading infrastructure is shared with Peabody's Millennium coal mine, which is located next to Poitrel.
BMA's mines produce a large assortment of coal ranging from high energy thermal coals to hard coking coal.
Coal is transported by rail to the Port of Hay Point located 38 km south of Mackay. The port is one of the world's largest coal export ports and at the same time one of Australia's most efficient ports. It boasts two entirely separate coal export terminals: the Dalrymple Bay coal terminal, which is leased from the government by a private company; and the Hay Point Coal Terminal owned and operated by the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance.
The Hay Point coal terminal has rail in-loading facilities, on-shore stockpile yards and 1.8 km off-shore wharves that are serviced by conveyor systems that run out on sea and permit deep water loading. Two shiploaders service the terminal. During the month of November 2008, the terminal shipped 3,930,458 tonnes of coal.
BMA's mines have a total capacity of 58 million tonnes of coal per year. Their coal is being sold in 23 countries around the world including UK, Japan, Europe, South America, India and Korea.
Environment and community
The BHP Billiton Alliance is committed to the wellbeing of its employees, communities and environment. The Alliance develops implements and maintains high standards for health, safety and environment that are consistent with best practice.
The company's goal is to minimize the environmental impact of exploration, mining and mineral processing activities and is doing that by running a variety of programs. The company set specific targets in areas such as energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste disposal.
One of the environmental challenges posed by operating a surface mine in the Bowen Basin is the release of water from mine sites as a result of event floods or excessive rainfalls.
For example, the 2007/2008 wet season was the greatest cumulative three month wet season since 1918 for the Goonyella Riverside mine location. The event resulted in extensive damage to mine's water management infrastructure and more water on site than could be safely stored by dams and the site was forced to release water to the local rivers. These water releases are monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency.
BMA's operations permanently employ over 4,100 people, but contractors included the total work force reached 9,400 in 2006.
BMA's employees and their families live in mining and rural centres of Moranbah, Blackwater, Dysart, Emerald, Coppabella and the regional coast around Mackay and Sarina.
BMA provides major benefits to all those communities including millions of dollars invested in developing and maintenance of theses townships and significant investments in new housing.
In 2007, BMA donated A$866,415 to over 400 non-profit organizations to community services, youth sporting groups, health organizations and welfare groups.