Coal miner Sojitz Blue has re-entered the old Crinum underground workings this week in a milestone for the proposed restart of mining there early next year.
Sojitz Blue managing director and chief executive officer Cameron Vorias said the seal had been broken and initial inspections encountered no unexpected issues.
“Mastermyne, who are doing the work with us, are evaluating the conditions underground and we are looking at putting forward the final feasibility study for the re-opening next year,” Mr Vorias said.
Sojitz Blue gained control of the mothballed Gregory Crinum coking coal site near Emerald last year after acquiring it from BMA for $100 million.
It is already in production from the Gregory open-cut mine, and Mr Vorias said restarting the underground operation was likely to create a further 150 jobs.
This would take the joint operation’s total workforce to about 500.
Production from the underground would lift output from about 2.5Mtpa to between 3.5Mtpa and 4Mtpa.
The Crinum deposit offers an initial resource of about 14 million tonnes to be mined via a bord and pillar operation, before transitioning to M Block – with an 80 million-tonne resource.
Mr Vorias said early works next year would centre on refurbishment, such as getting the conveyor and dewatering systems up to standard.
First coal would be expected about May/June, he said.
The underground restart remains subject to approval from Sojitz Blue parent company Sojitz Corporation.
Sojitz Blue’s project pipeline also includes the Wilton and Fairhill coking coal projects that it is developing with Futura Resources.
Mr Vorias described the projects as ‘shovel ready’ but said they would need to see more positive signs from the coal market before moving into production.