What a wonderful waste

A Hunter Valley mine is taking an innovative approach to managing its environmental impact by recycling waste oil and using it in explosives. Jessica Darnbrough writes.

Last year, New South Wales produced more than $13.9 billion of resources, with exports topping $4 billion.

Coal accounted for more than 80% of the total value of mineral production, with the Hunter Valley making up more than two thirds of all coal mining operations in NSW.

However, thanks to the global financial crisis which hit coking and thermal coal in the December quarter last year, coal ceased to enjoy elevated prices and high production rates.

In an attempt to cope with the slowed demand from major importers China and Japan, many mining companies were forced to tighten their prover bial belt and cut back on explo ration resources, production costs and staff.

Deloitte partner Tim Riordan told Australian Mining the Hun ter Valley in New South Wales may bypass the worst effects of the global financial crisis.

“The thermal coal markets have not seen as many of the gyrations that the other com modities have seen,” Riordan said.

“While there have been drops in thermal coal, those drops are not the same as other minerals are currently experiencing. More over, the prices are coming off a peak that was well above prices of three or four years ago. There fore, the businesses in the Hunter that have been well managed are still viable and are at the stage where they can still turn a profit regardless of what is going on in China.”

Riordan said the Hunter Valley would never be totally immune from the downturn but that they were well positioned to ride out the storm provid ing companies are not silly and continue to invest wisely in innovation and sound R&D.

Do the right thing

Many mines in the Hunter are currently trying their hand at innovative environmental man agement strategies.

Most notably Coal and Allied’s Hunter Valley Opera tions, a multi-seam open cut mine located 24km northwest of Singleton, started recycling their waste oil and using it in explosives.

The method has helped save more than 194,000 litres of diesel which is the equivalent of 512 tonnes of carbon dioxide since June last year, the same as taking 200 passenger cars off the road.

Hunter Valley Operations’ blast supervisor Darren Moffit told Australian Mining the idea was originally generated in 2003 during the company’s Business Improvement Process.

“Hunter Valley Operations is recycling waste oil, previ ously used in pieces of mobile equipment such as haul trucks and excavators, and using it in explosives,” Moffit said.

“The waste oil is collected, filtered and stored on site then added to diesel in equal parts to create an oil/diesel blend, where previously pure diesel was used.

“The blend is then used in explosives, reducing the mine’s diesel consumption and extend ing the product lifecycle of the oil used on site,” he said.

Before Hunter Valley Oper ations started recycling its waste oil on site, an external contrac tor would remove the waste oil, in accordance with Coal & Allied’s ISO 14001 certified Environmental Management System, and send it to an oil refinery for recycling.

Benefits abound

Moffit said the benefits of the process are twofold.

“We’re saving money by using less diesel and are re-using our oil, which would otherwise have been treated as waste,” he said.

According to Moffit, the oil is sourced from the mine’s work shop, having been used in engines, transmissions and hydraulics in the mine’s many pieces of mobile equipment.

“There is a small process ing cost to filter the oil, but this is minimal compared to the amount it costs to purchase diesel,” he said.

“The oil/diesel blend is just as effective in the explosives, which are used to blast layers of overburden, or waste rock, to reveal the coal seam before mining takes place.”

After being approved in 2003, it was not until 2007 that the wheels of the project were put in motion.

The project eventually started in June 2008. A six-month review in December showed promising results, allowing the project to continue into 2009.

Moffit said managing energy use was just one of the ways the mine was working to combat climate change.

“Coal and Allied strives for continuous improvement in every respect, which includes working smarter and more effi ciently while reducing our costs to increase shareholder value,” he said.

“Creating innovative ways to manage our energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, while reducing our costs, is an impor tant part of our work.

“The challenges of climate change will change the way we do business in the future. As a result, the risks associated with a changing climate, opportu nities of a changing policy envi ronment and the impacts of potential energy supplies are being factored into the design of our projects.”

Moffit said the company’s energy management objective was to improve energy use at their operations.

Coal and Allied is currently in the process of sharing their oil project and result analysis with sites in the Hunter Valley, as well as with other Rio Tinto Coal Australia mine sites across Queensland.

“Mount Thorley Wark worth, in the Hunter Valley, is currently investigating the use of pre-processed waste oil for explosives and other applica tions, where the processing is done off-site and by an exter nal contractor,” Moffit said.

“With any luck, they too will reduce their footprint.”

Coal & Allied

Hunter Valley Operations

07 3361 4200 www.coalandallied.com.au

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