Whitehaven slashes production at NSW mines

Maules Creek. Image: Whitehaven Coal.

Whitehaven Coal has been impacted by drought conditions, bushfires and labour shortages at the Maules Creek operations in New South Wales.

Bushfire activity in north west New South Wales has reduced but drought conditions persist.

Whitehaven has acquired property near Maules Creek with groundwater resources, transferred water access licences across the company and purchased temporary water entitlements.

The company expects widespread rain forecast for north New South Wales over the coming weeks to provide the region with “much-needed relief.”

Labour shortages and operational interruptions have also impacted overburden movement in Maules Creek during the December quarter, leading to lower coal production and sales.

Whitehaven produced 44 per cent less run-of-mine (ROM) coal, totalling 2.235 million tonnes in the December 2019 quarter compared with the prior corresponding period.

The company’s saleable coal production also plunged by 34 per cent to 1.585 million tonnes on the December 2018 quarter.

“Management has implemented a revised labour strategy for Maules Creek, which has begun to deliver positive outcomes,” Whitehaven stated in its December quarterly report.

“Implementation of autonomous haulage (AHS) for overburden removal continues to progress well.

“Recruitment of the initial team to bring the first AHS overburden fleet into production in the third quarter of the 2020 financial year was completed. The first AHS fleet is comprised of six Hitachi EH5000 trucks.”

In the Narrabri underground mine in New South Wales, Whitehaven also recommenced longwall production earlier this month and it is ramping up to plan.

“As is customary during a longwall change out, sales of coal were supported by a draw-down of coal stocks,” Whitehaven stated.

The company’s sales mix for the quarter included a higher proportion of lower calorific value thermal coal.

This amounted to 400,000 tonnes due to the impact of out-of-seam dilution in ROM production encountered at the end of LW108.

Whitehaven scheduled for another longwall move to LW110 to occur during the first quarter of 2021.

The company also plans to continue using the longwall mining method in the Narrabri stage three extension project, which could extend mine life from around 2031 to 2045.

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