Whitehaven strengthens workforce ahead of AHS deployment

Maules Creek. Image: Whitehaven Coal.

Whitehaven Coal has commenced its operation of autonomous haulage system (AHS) at the Maules Creek mine in New South Wales.

A fleet of six EH5000 trucks and excavators were operated by the company as part of its autonomous haulage of overburden during March.

Whitehaven plans to train and deploy additional labour resources during the June quarter to allow for seven-day operation of AHS by the end of the 2020 financial year.

The company has targeted a $50–58 million spending in growing the New South Wales mines during the financial year, which includes Maules Creek’s AHS project, Tarrawonga’s expansion to three million tonnes a year and Narrabri’s hydraulic cylinders.

“During the quarter, we fully met our manning requirements at Maules Creek and are now investing in the skills development to achieve full utilisation of equipment and productivity of our workforce,” Whitehaven managing director and chief executive Paul Flynn said.

“As the largest private sector employer in our part of New South Wales, we are well aware of our role in supporting local jobs and the economy against the backdrop of the COVID-19.

“While globally and at home we see economic activity rapidly contracting, it is pleasing that demand for coal from customers in our region remains solid.”

Whitehaven produced 4.9 million tonnes of managed run-of-mine (ROM) coal production in the March quarter, up 8 per cent on the previous corresponding period.

This was guided by ROM coal production at Maules Creek for the quarter, which went 39 per cent above the prior corresponding period to 2.36 million tonnes.

The company’s quarterly coal sales, however, went down by 22 per cent on the prior equal period to 4.5 million tonnes.

Whitehaven’s year to date sales volumes reflect the eight-week Narrabri longwall change out, the impacts to production from staffing shortages and dust events at Maules Creek and the impact of rain at the Gunnedah open cuts.

The company has temporarily folded its plans to carry out its development projects, including Narrabri underground mine stage three extension, Vickery extension and Winchester South metallurgical coal projects due to cautiousness in allocating capital to expansion.

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