Australian Mining Prospect Award Winners: Australian Mine of the Year – Mangoola, GlencoreXstrata

GlencoreXstrata’s Mangoola coal mine has been named Australian Mine of the Year.

Accepting the award, operation manager Tony Israel said this is a significant achievement for the Mangoola coal mine, which only began operations in 2011.

“We don’t look for any accolades we just go about our business and to get this sort of recognition is just fantastic, I’m just speechless but so proud and looking forward to sharing this with the people back at Mangoola,” Israel said.

The judges recognised Mangoola mine for its triple bottom line approach to operating a site located in a community sensitive to mining activities.

“We don’t align with any other operations, we’re out in a fairly remote location and the community is particularly sensitive to us being there, we need to manage that and be proactive, not reactive,” Israel said.

Tony-israel.jpgOperating in a fairly remote location outside of Wybong in the upper Hunter Valley, Israel explained GlencoreXstrata has made investments in environmental management technology in order to meet – and in many cases exceed – environmental compliance requirements in areas such as water, noise, air and dust management.

“In the process we have engaged with our local communities on an ongoing basis and successfully demonstrated that mining can minimise its impact on communities and the environment while providing important economic and employment benefits,” Israel said.

In a highly competitive category, when deciding the winner, judges said it wasn’t based solely on tonnes.

Mangoola’s continuous 24/7 operation employs about 300 people – with a good proportion sourced from local Hunter Valley townships.

Notably, only three years ago, Mangoola employed more than half its workforce from non-mining related backgrounds, a feat which created a significant training requirement that the miner addressed through the use of simulators for both initial and ongoing operator training.

The judges said the site’s community engagement and commitment to providing employment opportunities, particularly within local communities, was also a weighty factor in the decision.

Signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the local Muswellbrook Council, Mangoola said it aims to recruit locally, a strategy which Israel explained has seen turnover rates fall from 10 per cent to almost zero.

“If we can continue to employ local people where they have the skills we will do that and develop them like we’ve done with our current employees,” he said.

“Over 50 per cent of our current employees were from non-mining backgrounds, people with no experience at all and we’re achieving above benchmark productivities and utilisation rates.

“We also have the largest percentage of women employed at any mine in the Hunter Valley.

 “We’ll continue to recruit local people and develop local people.”

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The site also has expansion plans in the works, it is proposing to ramp up production by almost 30 per cent to 13.5 million tonnes of coal a year; a move it estimates will create another 150 new jobs.

The judges said the mine also took out the award because of productivity performance and for taking an innovative approach to environmental management.

“It’s really about firstly understanding the risks and the environment in which we operate,” Israel said.

Environmental management at the mine is considered best practice, as the site focuses operations on minimising community impacts.

Mangoola has implemented a network of real time and continuous air quality and noise monitoring stations complete with alarms and has full coverage of the entire operation.

Recently fielding a number of complaints from its neighbours, instead of battening down the hatches GlencoreXstrata invited the community on site to discuss the issues.

Taking the feedback on board, Mangoola took another look at its operations and has now developed customised noise attenuated equipment.

The mine determined the complaints centred around track slap noise which occurs when dozers are reversing on the coal stockpile.

With this in mind the mine enlisted the help of a local mining service company which customised a steel structure, dubbed the Armadillo, to fully enclose the dozer’s drive areas, muffling track slap noise.

Since the Armadillo has been fitted, and with the implementation of a first gear only rule for dozers operating at night, noise complaints have dropped off. 

In addition to the environmental achievements at Mangoola, the positive “can-do” workforce culture has contributed to improving its social licence to mine.

Mangoola runs a number of community outreach programs that are transforming the face of surrounding towns, including enlisting the help of local artists to launch an art park in nearby Sandy Hollow and contracting the local Men’s Shed to build 300 bird boxes for the site.

Taking out the award came down to a culmination of the miner’s efforts across operational, community and environmental facets over a number of years, the judges said.

But it isn’t all smooth sailing ahead, Israel stated that Mangoola has plenty more challenges to contend with to ensure the operation continues to balance its environmental, social, and business activities.

“That appreciation [of a triple bottom line approach] and that emphasis is what will allow us to continue to operate, gain approvals and continue to add value to our shareholders,” he said.

“We’re certainly under a lot of pressure because the community is very informed these days, we need to respect that and we need to value their input, which we do, and we need to get them involved.

“If we can do that I think we’ve got a better chance to continue to manage our impacts and allow us to gain more approvals in the future, it’s becoming increasingly difficult, we’ve got a lot of very stringent consent conditions upon us but we just need to work with that, work with the regulators, work with the community and hopefully continue to maintain a licence to operate.”

Looking ahead, Mangoola is in the midst of an approvals process which if granted will extend mine life.

“Next is to gain our next modification, we are looking to expand our production and that’s a process that we’re going through at the moment, from there that will create further value for our shareholders and security for our people.

“Our biggest challenge coming up is to gain that approval and to try and maintain consent conditions which are workable and also try to demonstrate that we can manage our impacts.”

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