Collingsville coal mine hits its 1 millionth tonne coal production rate in a few months
When the Queensland Collingsville Bowen Basin coal mine was managed by Xstrata, things weren’t going too well. The dramatic decline in coal prices and the constant issues between mine management and the workforce forced the global mining company to think again about the viability of the mine.
Closing a coal mine is never easy, as there are many factors at play and millions of dollars worth of high-tech mining equipment that can’t be left in-situ. In these types of cases, mines are put into maintenance mode, being looked after by a handful of workers. When prices are favourable once again, mines will open up and start production.
However, after the mine was closed late in 2013, it took until February 2014 before Glencore fired up the mine site once again. What’s interesting about this story is that this mine has just hit its 1 millionth tonne of coal production in just 6 months.
Back in 2013 when the mine was under Xstrata Coal management, mining contractor Thiess was in charge of mine site production. The workforce was made up of Thiess employees and contractors with some 300 Thiess full time staff and 160 contractors. Many jobs were lost at the Collingsville Bowen Basin coal mine during the era when the mine closed and Xstrata took over the operation of the mine.
In a statement to the media Xstrata said the mine required ‘a more comprehensive re-organisation” after suffering substantial financial losses.
Many jobs were lost at the time when the mine went into maintenance mode, with bitter fallout ensuing between the mine managers and the mining union CFMEU. Accusations were flying in relation to the way the redundancies were handled, with the CFMEU citing inappropriate selection methods for sacked workers.
The fight was so intense that the CFMEU met with Fair Work Australia in an attempt to resolve the issue. Thiess refuted the claims of unfair dismissal methodologies and said the dismissal process had been transparent and fair.
In its defence, Thiess also provided all of its employees with a few options including voluntary redundancy and the opportunity for individuals to express an interest in relocating to other sites where similar roles were available.
All of this of course is history and now the mine has been upgraded and revamped with a new workforce. Since restarting its production, the Collingsville Bowen Basin coal mine has undergone many changes, according to Glencore management.
Significant changes were apparent when the company decided to operate its mine with staff employees. It seems the history and its experience with contractors in the past dictated this new workforce model. Now, the mine is enjoying the benefits of an owner-operator business model.
As with most mining companies in the latter part of 2013 and now well into 2014, the focus is on efficiency and raising productivity and trimming excess costs were they can. Glencore have realised a new era in productivity at the Collingsville mine by redesigning the mine plan which makes way for larger equipment to increase productivity.
This directly improves the mine’s CHPP efficiency and capacity. Glencore has also stated it has introduced what it calls a ‘flexible workplace agreement’ model, and with production ramping up, it seems to be working.
Since coal mining operations restarted, Glencore has increased its mining workforce to 200, finding most of its workers in local communities close to the mine.
The Collingsville coal mine also gives hope for other local communities who were once threatened by mining companies insisting on a FIFO workforce. This is good news for the locals as many jobs were lost in a time where coal mining is re-inventing itself on the back of lower coal prices and reduced demand.
About Collingsville coal mine
The Glencore Collingsville coal mine (which is located in the northern part of the Queensland Bowen Basin) forms part of the NCA Project which is a mining, processing and exporting partnership.
The NCA Project includes the Collingsville and Newlands open-cut and underground longwall operation and the Abbot Point coal terminal.
The Collingsville open-cut mine produces a variety of coking and steaming coal products for the overseas and domestic markets. Joint venture partners are Xstrata Coal (55%), Itochu Coal Resources (35%) and Sumitomo (10%).
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