Contractor Kalari commenced hauling coal his week from the new Meteor Downs South mine for railing at the Minerva operation, south of Emerald.
Sojitz Coal Mining managing director and chief executive officer Cameron Vorias said it was the start of a steady stream of traffic from now on, with about 25 truckloads per day expected out of Meteor Downs South for an annual output of about 500,000 tonnes of thermal coal.
About 80,000 tonnes has been mined and stockpiled at the Meteor Downs South site, 45km south-east of Springsure, since mid-April.
It is another milestone for the company, which late last month announced it was acquiring the mothballed Gregory Crinum coking coal mine from BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance for $100 million, and plans to recommence operations there by the end of 2018.
Big plans for Gregory Crinum
Sojitz Coal Mining plans a $100 million solar farm as part of its Gregory Crinum restart and will also kick off a third-party processing operation drawing on the nearby Wilton-Fairhill deposit as part of the restart.
Mr Vorias said there were synergies between the company’s Minerva hub and the Gregory Crinum acquisition, with both operations and their workforces to be centred and serviced from the Emerald area.
The company expects to employ up to 200 further workers in that area over the next 12 months, climbing to a peak of 300.
“We are looking at bringing on a nearby third-party coal mine that is very close to Gregory Crinum that is owned by Futura Resources called the Wilton-Fairhill mine,” he said.
“We are going to contract mine that operation, wash it at the at Gregory Crinum facility and sell it into the international market on their behalf.”
That mine alone would generate an additional 50-100 jobs over the next five years, he said.
“It has always been part of our trajectory to not only expand into Meteor but to also grow our metallurgical coal portfolio,” Mr Vorias said.
“In an environment where there’s a de-carbonisation trend around the world, Sojitz’s response is to move our business more towards coal for steel making rather than coal for power generation.
“On top of that, to demonstrate our environmental credentials, we’re looking at building a very sizeable solar farm at the Gregory Crinum mine.
“It will commence at 20-30MW and climb to 100MW. We’re looking to not only use that power for some of our own internal use for the washplant and dragline – but also for other mining operations in the local area plus the local community.”
Mr Vorias said the first priority was to commence rehabilitation of Gregory mine and that Sojitz was establishing a new environmental company that would be dedicated towards that task as well as taking on other environmental work at other local mining operations.
Injecting life into Emerald
The ongoing Minerva open-cut operation is expected to continue operations until 2024, although the company also is exploring opportunities for a small underground operation off the final high wall.
“Our expectation is that there will be opportunities for our existing workforce at Minerva and MDS to consider a move to Gregory Crinum,” Mr Vorias said.
All in all, the plans are good news for the Emerald area.
“The discussions and negotiations we’ve had with local government in the area has always been centred on bringing prosperity back to Emerald by providing additional jobs and more opportunities for local suppliers and general industry,” Mr Vorias said.
“We’re working with local government to look at other opportunities and how we can support some expansionary developments in the Emerald area outside mining.”