Aquila is an operational underground metallurgical coal (coking coal) mine located near Middlemount in the Australian state of Queensland.
Anglo American, a London-based multinational mining company, has a 70% stake in the Aquila Mine. The remaining 30% interest is with Japan-based Mitsui & Co.
The project is a part of the existing Capcoal complex- which comprises Capcoal open cut mine, Grasstree mine, Aquila mine, the Coal Handling and Preparation Plant and ancillary infrastructure.
Operations at Aquila were suspended in 2009 and it was placed under care and maintenance in July 2013 pending the introduction of a longwall mine plan amid weaker prices.
Anglo American approved Aquila hard coking coal project in July 2019, and development work commenced in September 2019.
The mine achieved the first longwall shear of steelmaking metallurgical coal in February 2022. The milestone represented the project’s final stage of construction and commissioning.
Aquila’s saleable production is expected to be around five million tonnes of premium quality hard coking coal per annum.
Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business operates five metallurgical coal mine sites in the Bowen Basin in Queensland.
The Capcoal complex, a joint venture (JV) between Mitsui Coal Holdings and Anglo American, includes Capcoal Open Cut and Grasstree Mines. These mines are located around 60km south-west of the township of Middlemount, and 120km north-west of Emerald in the Bowen Basin.
Previously known as German Creek, Capcoal Open Cut Mine began open cut mining operations in late 1981.
Underground coal mining commenced at Southern Colliery in 1988. Open cut mining shifted to Capcoal’s Oak Park lease in 2004, and subsequently to Lindsay lease area in 2008.
Grasstree underground mine achieved first production in 2002 and it produced 10 million tonnes per annum run-of-mine (ROM) coal in 2015.
In 2017, the complex produced 6.7 million tonnes of saleable metallurgical coal (Anglo American share).
The Gladstone Port and Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal in Mackay, Queensland are used to ship exports.
The approval of Aquila hard coking coal project in 2019 is part of Anglo American plan to continue investing in the development and expansion of the Capcoal complex.
According to Anglo American, Aquila Mine is developed as one of the most technologically advanced underground mines in Australia. The mine will rely on underground automation technology, remote operations and data analytics to support operations.
The project will target Aquila and Aquila Lower coal seams to produce hard-coking coal. The Aquila seams are located between 70m and 280m from the surface with a nominal seam height ranging from 1.8m to 2.2m.
It features two longwalls to enable operations without the downtime that is usually associated with longwall moves.
Both the longwalls can be operated remotely and will be controlled site-based remote operations centre at the surface.
The ROM coal is transferred from the underground development and longwall units through a new underground conveyor belt system to a new surface conveyor.
Subsequently, the coal is stockpiled and transported to the Coal Handling Preparation Plant for processing.
Aquila Mine will extend Capcoal underground hard coking coal operations by another seven years, while Grasstree Mine has reached the end of its life.
The development of the Aquila Mine involved building surface and underground infrastructure and the development of longwall panels to support the operations.
The anticipated total capital cost was $323m, while attributable capital cost was $226m.
During the construction phase, the project employed around 1,200 people. It will also support 600 ongoing operational roles for Anglo American’s Queensland-based workforce.
Local entities supplied the majority of services including longwall equipment, technology, and civil works for the project.
In November 2020, Anglo American awarded around A$200m ($133.9m) to six longwall equipment suppliers to build a walk-on, walk-off system using two complete longwalls.
A A$20m contract was awarded for an overland conveyor system. The company also invested more than A$20m in related civil works.
The project infrastructure also includes a A$5m reverse osmosis water treatment system to use recycled water for operations and minimise fresh water use.
In 2019, Mackay-based mining company Mastermyne secured A$95m mining development contract from Anglo American.