A mothballed coal operation is already starting to reopen in Queensland’s Darling Downs region.
New Hope Group recently confirmed early surveying is underway at the $896 million New Acland Coal Stage 3 Expansion, 53km northwest of Toowoomba.
“We are out here at [Mach 3] putting in pegs for the first lines … this will be the crest of the new pit and is basically the guideline to show the surveyors where we need to dig. This sets out where we can and cannot dig, which is really important in the scheme of things,” New Acland general manager Dave O’Dwyer said at a press conference.
O’Dwyer revealed major excavation is expected start either after Christmas or early in 2023, at which point the first round of jobseekers will be hired. Job vacancies will be advertised on the company website within weeks.
“The first startup crews will be fairly lean, we will not be going straight up to the 300-320 that we will need for full production to get us back to 5 million tonnes. The first recruitment will be around 80 to 100 people early in the New Year,” he said.
“We would love to be digging right now. That was always our goal to be digging as quickly as we can but, at this point in time, it will be after Christmas – just into the New Year.”
Other major work includes the Acland Silverleigh Road realignment and Jondaryan railway upgrade.
“We will work together with the Toowoomba Regional Council really soon,” O’Dwyer said.
The proponent has also contacted former offshore customers who expressed interest in ordering coal. Local abattoirs, meat processors, hospitals, manufacturers and power stations are also keen to buy the commodity.
“Our Japanese partners are … really keen for us to get back into the market,” O’Dwyer said.
“South East Asia is our other market [including] private major power generators in those countries … [and] about 95 per cent of our coal goes export, and about 5 per cent is domestic.”
Qube Bulk is returning as the preferred transporter between the mine site and rail loading facility. It will also manage, stockpile and load trains.
“We are back to the point where we need to purchase new gear to get stage three underway. This stage three is certainly going to shore up a lot of people and get them back, be involved and stay local,” Qube operations manager Mark Beckman told reporters.
“In its heyday we probably had 80 workers but there were over 300 other contractors and personnel who were indirectly involved with our operations.”