Report: APP CMHS Project 1

CSIRO advises that the information contained in this comprises general statements based on scientific research. The reader is advised and needs to be aware that such information may be incomplete or unable to be used in any specific situation. No reliance or actions must therefore be made on that information without seeking prior expert professional, scientific and technical advice. To the extent permitted by law, CSIRO (including its employees and consultants) excludes all liability to any person for any consequences, including but not limited to all losses, damages, costs, expenses and any other compensation, arising directly or indirectly from using this publication (in part or in whole) and any information or material contained in it.

2.1.1. Overview

Australia produced 317 Mt of saleable black coal in 2008 from an economic demonstrated resource of 39.6 Bt. It is the fourth largest global coal producer and the largest coal exporter. The total value of coal exports for 2008/9 was in the order of A$52.1B. In addition, coal provides the most significant part of energy supply in Australia, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Australian Electricity Fuels 2006/7 (Dept Resources, Energy and Tourism)

There are two main underground coal mining regions in Australia within the states of New South Wales and Queensland, collectively producing approximately 94 Mt (saleable) per annum from 45 underground coal mines. One underground mine operates in Tasmania but is not covered within this report as the main issues are comprehensively included in considering the other two states.

There are two major coal basins, one in each state, where underground coal mining occurs in 7 regions: Newcastle, Hunter, Southern and Western coalfields of the Sydney Basin in New South Wales (Figure 2) and Northern, Central and South Eastern coalfields of the Bowen Basin in Queensland (Figure 3). The majority of product is recovered using retreat longwall methods. There are some bord and pillar mining operations with some extracting pillars.

The underground industry employs approximately 11,000 people directly with around half as many again employed as contractors. Productivity is in the region of 8,500t/employee/year.

The Australian underground coal mining industry continues to grow albeit at a modest rate. There are at least 5 new underground longwall mines planned and undergoing development. These mines are anticipated to be deeper with increasing gas levels and wider faces. There is scope for at least two of these mines to use top coal caving techniques for greater recovery and reduction of spontaneous combustion potential.

Figure 2 NSW coalfields

Figure 3 Queensland coalfields

Australian underground coal mining conditions are typified by moderate to high stress methane and spontaneous combustion potential at some significant mining operations. This is associated with specific seams and localities such as those in Sydney Basin and Bowen Basin.

Mines in the southern coalfields of NSW (Sydney Basin) are typified by high methane content, high in-situ stresses associated with working at depths of over 500 m and moderate outburst conditions. There is a significant focus on in-seam drilling for gas drainage, robust ventilation systems, and prediction and control of high ground stresses. Some mines in the Hunter Valley, Newcastle region and central Queensland (Bowen Basin) are prone to spontaneous combustion. These are controlled with strict ventilation systems and inertisation contingencies. Longwall mines, particularly those practicing gas drainage, have significant problems with airborne and respirable dust.

Mines in Queensland are prone to hot ambient conditions, some with increased ventilation quantities and air conditioning facilities in place.

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