Sojitz Coal Mining has officially taken control of the Gregory Crinum site in Central Queensland today and plans to start mining from May.
The operation is expected to employ about 300 people at its peak – with the workforce centred on the Emerald, Springsure and Capella area.
The company announced the deal to acquire the mothballed coking coal mine from BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance for $100 million in May last year.
It has taken this long to work through all conditions in the contract, according to Sojitz Coal Mining managing director and chief executive officer Cameron Vorias.
But behind the scenes preparation including fleet procurement and refurbishment contracts has set the company up for a prompt restart at what will now be known as the Sojitz Gregory mine.
“We have had a transition team in place since we announced the acquisition and they have been working on activities associated with getting mining operations going,” Mr Vorias said.
An initial truck and shovel fleet will start work in May, drawing on workers brought across from Sojitz’s Minerva operation – which is also in the Emerald area.
A second fleet and dragline are expected to come online on June/July and Sojitz hopes to have the Gregory wash plant running in July.
“We’ll be recruiting from about late May, seeking expressions of interest,” Mr Vorias said.
“I’ve made a very clear commitment that we will be supporting the local area and townships of Emerald and Springsure and Capella.
“That’s the region we are looking at recruiting from, even if that means we train up unskilled people that live in the area – that’s our goal.
“The Emerald location is quite endearing to us because it has been good to Minerva. We have created a family-friendly environment. We are not a camp-style mining operation.”
Mr Vorias said Sojitz was anticipating first coking coal exports from the restarted operation in the last quarter of 2019.
“In terms of tonnages, it will be a slow build-up over the next couple of years. It will probably be around 3Mtpa from the open-cut and maybe 1Mtpa from the underground,” he said.
Sojitz is also going through the permitting process to bring the nearby Wilton-Fairhill deposit online for processing through the Gregory operation.
“We’d be looking to bring those mines on in the second half of this year,” Mr Vorias said.
He said Sojitz had continued to work with key suppliers it had built long-term relationships with including Caterpillar dealer Hastings Deering, CHPP specialists DRA, Bridgestone and Caltex. It is working with a solar farm proponent in the region on a potential green energy supply.
Mr Vorias said Sojitz had wanted to keep the Gregory name – maintaining the tradition for a mine which had been operating since 1979.
“It is a bit of an icon in the coking coal industry. We want to maintain that symbolism of one of the longest established operations, providing coking coal to the steel market for the last 40 years,” he said.