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Construction Aboutusgenericimage_3 Greg Byrne, Downing; Ian Reed, QNP csg dragline Sgt Rob Smith and Constable Paul Muller mining Kaleb and Harmoni Mauloni Aboutusgeneric_2 (L-R) Charlie Swaffield and Friend, Jayden and Eathan Little and Rylee Flint (L-R) Fern, Simon, Phoenix Morgan and River Levi (L-R) Neve Flint, Brooke Roberts Holly Hill and Isabelle Elms Aboutusgeneric_1 Port fifo
Construction Aboutusgenericimage_3 Greg Byrne, Downing; Ian Reed, QNP csg dragline Sgt Rob Smith and Constable Paul Muller mining Kaleb and Harmoni Mauloni Aboutusgeneric_2 (L-R) Charlie Swaffield and Friend, Jayden and Eathan Little and Rylee Flint (L-R) Fern, Simon, Phoenix Morgan and River Levi (L-R) Neve Flint, Brooke Roberts Holly Hill and Isabelle Elms Aboutusgeneric_1

Cook saving Caledon
Wednesday 01 October 2014  

QUEENSLAND’S oldest underground mine is still paying its way, according to its owner.

Cook Colliery - or “old Cook” as Caledon Resources CEO Brett Garland likes to affectionately call it - is the reason the company has not gone the same way as Bandanna Energy.

While Caledon’s greenfield project Minyango is still bogged down in the approvals process, Cook is shaping up to be the only source of coal the company has to deliver on take-or-pay contracts they have with the new Wiggins Island coal export terminal.

Just last week, Bandanna was forced into voluntary administration because it couldn’t get its proposed Springsure Creek mine built in time or find the finance to meet its take-or-pay contracts.

Back in 2011 when Caledon began the approvals process for Minyango, Mr Garland said he thought the company would be “a bit smarter and a bit better” than others that had spent years locked in the process.

However, one year in, the company began looking for Plan Bs, when it became apparent the approval was unlikely to happen any faster.

At this point, a new vision for the “old Cook” began to materialise.

“We went through a number of scenarios looking at how we could beat the time frames for Wiggins Island, and the one that kept hitting us in the face was good old Cook Colliery,” Mr Garland told the Bowen Basin Mining Club in Emerald.

“The longwall back in the 80s wasn’t real successful, and every man and his dog has had a go at it, and everybody has lost money.

“And we thought, in for a penny, in for a pound, we had better start looking at what we could do.”

Since that date an expansion plan for Cook has emerged which, if successful, would increase output from the mine from the current 600,000 tonnes of coking coal a year to around 3.5 million tonnes.

According to Mr Garland the key to delivering on that ambitious goal is a lot of in-house innovation and the discovery of Chinese machinery that changed what they thought was feasible.

“We had some friends who were operating a mine down in New South Wales and they let us have a look at their Chinese longwall,” he said.

“It’s only a little thing, 55 metres wide - most people would challenge the word longwall - and what we saw on that tour blew our minds.

“For the quality that we could see right in front of us, this wasn’t junk, this wasn’t something bought cheap and was only going to last a short time. There was some real quality about it, and we were very impressed.”

Then it was a simple case of doing the maths.

“I rang our guys and I said throw this number in and see what it does. We had only ever seen red numbers when it came to a longwall for Cook… but they said it is black! You should see it! So from that minute on Cook was on a course to put a longwall in.”

Since then, Caledon has set about solving all the other problems the old mine presents, a path Mr Garland knows won’t be easy.

“We have got old pillars, every bit of old equipment Ronny McKenna left in the mine, everything you don’t want to know about is up above you.

“So it’s not going to be plain sailing, it’s not going to be easy, but a board and pillar operation doesn’t cut it any more.”


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