Movers & shakers: The month’s mining developments


Gainwell's GHWM300M highwall mining unit. Image: Vitrinite.

Keep up with the latest developments in Australian mines, including at the Thunderbird mineral sands, Dartbrook coal and Kalgoorlie nickel projects.

Kimberley Mineral Sands awarded GR Engineering with an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract at the Thunderbird operations in Western Australia, ahead of a final investment decision in mid-2022.

Assuming a decision is made on schedule, the project would reach first production around the end of 2023.

GR Engineering managing director Geoff Jones said he was proud to continue the relationship with KMS at the Thunderbird operations.

“We are extremely please to have been engaged to perform a key role in the development of the world-class Thunderbird mineral sands project,” Jones said.

“GR Engineering has been associated with the project over a number of years and it is exciting to see this project progress to the next stage of development.


Vitrinite changed the coal mining game at its Vulcan coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen basin when it engaged Gainwell Engineering Global to supply a GHWM300M highwall mining unit.

This will represent the first use outside of India for the machine which was manufactured under license from Caterpillar.

According to Vitrinite, the introduction of highwall mining technology will play a significant role in the future of the Australian mining industry, as it has in many other coal markets around the world.

“Highwall miners have proven to be safe, highly productive, have a low environmental impact, and provide access coal that would otherwise be stranded due to economic constraints,” the company stated.

The privately-owned coal miner expects first coal to be mined at Vulcan in 2023 and the success of initial development will determine the order of future highwall mining units.


Australian Pacific Coal (AQC) was granted a five-year extension for mining operations at the Dartbrook coal mine in New South Wales following years of legal battles.

The approved extension comes after the Dartbrook mine was denied a five-year extension by the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) in 2019.

The now-approved modification includes undertaking mining of the Kayuga seam using the first workings bord-and-pillar method as an alternative to approved longwall mining.

In addition to the approved operations, run-of-mine (ROM) coal will be hauled using registered trucks on existing private roads to a new shaft facility located between the existing private Western Access Road and the New England Highway.


Ardea Resources received Major Project Status (MPS) for its $1.165 billion Kalgoorlie Nickel Project (KNP) which incorporates a new mine and processing plant in Western Australia.

The project will see cobalt-nickel ore processed into mixed hydroxide precipitate, for use as a raw material in the growing international battery market.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recognised the importance of projects of this nature.

“With 1500 jobs each year for the three-year construction and 500 jobs a year for the 25-year operation, this project is a major project and will get every support possible from my government,” he said.

Projects awarded MPS have access to extra support from the Major Projects Facilitation Agency, including having a single-entry point for Australian Government approvals, project support and coordination.


Morella Corporation received Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) approval to use ground-disturbing equipment at the Mallina lithium project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The Mallina lithium project is 120 kilometres southwest of Port Hedland and the project area is serviced with primary roads, export infrastructure and access to skilled, mining-centric labour.

Morella has completed key environment, social and governance (ESG) related workstreams in support of the company’s maiden drilling program at the lithium project and is now focussed on mobilising staff, equipment and contractors to the project for the imminent commencement of drilling.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.