Emerging from the storm

Following the inundation of Cockatoo Coal’s Baralaba Mine on 29 December, 2010, the company’s one consolation was that the flooding resulted only in production delays and that none of its miners were injured.

Footage of water gushing into the open pit, dwarfing the massive haul trucks and loaders showcased the devastation of the floods on the mining industry.

As soon as flood waters subsided sufficiently, a geotechnical assessment for the main pit concluded that there were no major instability issues and, working with the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM), Cockatoo was able to quickly and safely pump the majority of the water out of the mine.

No time was wasted in ascertaining the extent of the damage and making plans to get the mine back into full swing, as explained by Cockatoo Coal director and chief financial officer, Peter Nightingale, in a statement made to the public.

"Once flood waters recede, a detailed pit dewatering program will be initiated to get the mine back into production as soon as possible."

Mine management have confirmed that production is back on schedule.

Furthermore feasibility studies to expand the mine to 3.5Mtpa in line with increased port capacity at Gladstone continue, and planning indicates that the mine is set to become one of Australia’s top PCI producer from the Rangal Coal Masures.

In addition to restoration carried out on site, the entire Cockatoo workforce took an active role in the local community, aiding farmers with rehabilitation and assisting in the resurrection of infrastructure throughout several towns.

The involvement of Cockatoo in the community following the disaster was not completely out of the ordinary.

The miner has a strong association with Landcare, a nation-wide grassroots movement dedicated to managing environmental issues in local communities.

The Landcare Group in Baralaba provides a central meeting place for landowners and for the community at large.

In recognition of this service, the miner presented Landcare with a cheque for $20,000.

This donation supported the group’s ongoing operations in the area.

Cockatoo is a rapidly growing coking and thermal coal producer, who attributed much of their success to a flat management structure.

"Our people are driven and determined," chief operating officer, Peter Doyle, explained that "the faith we have in our workforce, and the simple fact that they have easy access to senior management, means our people are able to make tangible contributions which add to the growth of our business."

Since their ASX listing in 2005, Cockatoo Coal have remained focused on becoming a mid-tier independent coal company, suited to servicing the ongoing growth in the global demand for coal.

In line with a focus on expansion, and with a view to develop Baralaba from producing 600,000 tonnes of coal to 3.5 million tonnes, the company is now undertaking a major recruitment campaign to ensure continued growth on site.

In excess of forty positions, in varied roles such as office-based support to geological and environmental sustainability roles, have been created.

The miner is also looking to ways of overcoming the forecast skills shortage.

To date, it has undergone preliminary work into developing a graduate program for operations both in Queensland and New South Wales.

Doyle also sees the locations of Cockatoo Coal’s mines as a significant factor.

Unlike many mining operations in Australia, Cockatoo’s sites are fairly close to metropolitan centres.

The Baralaba coal mine in Queensland, for example, is within easy driving distance of Rockhampton, with their Bylong and Hume mines being similarly close to Newcastle and Sydney.

Cockatoo stated that it is well on its way to achieving its objective of transforming seven current exploration projects into producing mines.

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