Prospect Awards review: Moranbah North scoops top Australian mine honours

Anglo American executive head of underground Glen Britton; Moranbah North general manager Craig Manz; Anglo American executive head open cut Mark Heaton; and MMD Australia managing director Lee Hillyer

There has been no room for complacency at Anglo American’s Moranbah North metallurgical coal mine in the Bowen Basin of Queensland.

Anglo American has focused heavily on improving the safety and productivity at Moranbah North for the past six years.

This constant focus has led to the operation being named the MMD Australian Mine of the Year and the SEW-Eurodrive Coal Mine of the Year at the 2017 Australian Mining Prospect Awards.

The coal mine’s performance has improved since its management launched an operational review of activities at the mine in 2011.

Output at the operation had prior to the review been impacted by a fall of ground in the conveyor drift, which led to significant production constraints.

While the incident was a major concern for the operation at the time, it emerged as a significant turning point in the mine’s history, which has spanned since underground longwall mining was launched at the site in 1998.

In January 2012, a complete operational restructure was implemented to improve safety and deliver a roadmap to diversify the underground environment and improve the mine’s output each year.

The foundation set almost six years ago has formed the basis for a high level of safety, underground and surface standards, production excellence and industry-leading innovation.

Anglo American implemented a strategic production improvement program during 2012 that outlined a pipeline of projects aimed at executing a major step change at the site.

The modifications included maximising focus on one longwall instead of two, and two development units instead of three.

Moranbah North’s output almost doubled from 3.7 million tonnes in 2012 to 6.9 million tonnes in 2013, clearing the way for record-breaking returns in the following years.

Since 2013, Anglo American has also embraced longwall bidirectional cutting practices, as well as equipment automation, to deliver additional production increases.

The improvement in output and safety at Moranbah North has been supported by operational and engineering suggestions that have been offered by all levels of the business, leading to an engaged and motivated workforce.

Anglo’s initiatives at Moranbah North have it on track to deliver another production record in 2017, with the company forecasting output of 8.05 million tonnes.

Moranbah North general manager Craig Manz accepts the Coal Mine of the Year award from SEW-Eurodrive mechanical engineering manager NSW Greg Smith

The company is confident of reaching this mark, having already surpassed 5 million tonnes in the fewest number of production days in the mine’s history.

Moranbah North general manager Craig Manz said the team at the mine was planning to improve its performance even further in the coming years.

“We are on a journey. We are on track for 8 million tonnes this year and we will get that through,” Manz told Australian Mining.

“Our next journey is to get to 10 milllion tonnes and to make that sustainable in the longer term for the operation.”

The positive turnaround in focus at Moranbah North has been instrumental in developing an operation that consistently pushes the boundaries for the coal industry.

Moranbah North constantly embraces equipment, emerging technologies and processes that improve the productivity and efficiency of the site, as well as enhancing the working lives of its employees.

Anglo has introduced equipment such as VVVF face conveyor drives and LED lighting throughout the mine, and the workforce-initiated and award-winning Dust Gutter System for respirable dust reduction on the longwall.

The company is also investing in processes such as shotcreting and wet stonedusting travel roadways, pumpable cribs for standing tailgate support, and trialling leading-edge rib bolting technology to further improve the overall safety of the operation.

Moranbah North management is driving technological advances like a customised visual strata hazard management system and underground tablets for livestreaming communications.

In addition, workers at the mine have pioneered the use of the PDM3700 personal respirable dust monitor in Australia and are spearheading an effort to use them in greater capacity underground.

Moranbah North is 88 per cent owned by Anglo American, with its minor stakeholders including Japan’s Nippon Steel (5 per cent) and Mitsui Coal (4.75 per cent).