The Byerwen coal project is an open-cut coal mine being developed in Bowen Basin of Queensland, Australia. Image courtesy of CIMIC Group.
Byerwen is expected to produce hard coking coal and thermal coal products for export. Image courtesy of Michael Femia.
Liebherr excavators will be used at the Byerwen coal project. Image courtesy of Liebherr.

The Byerwen coal project is an open-cut coal mine being developed approximately 20km west of Glenden in Bowen Basin of Queensland, Australia. The two-phased greenfield project is expected to produce high-quality hard coking coal for export, in addition to thermal coal by-product.

Byerwen Coal Pty Ltd, a joint venture between QCoal and JFE Steel Australia (BY) Pty Ltd, is developing the coal mine with an investment of $1.76bn. QCoal holds 85% stake in Byerwen Coal, while JFE Steel Australia (BY) Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of JFE Holdings’s JFE Steel Corporation (JFE Steel), holds the remaining 15% interest.

The Commonwealth Minister for the Environment approved the coal project in October 2014 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Mining leases for the project were granted by the Queensland State Government in May 2017, while mining activities were commenced in August 2017.

The project is forecasted to extract up to 15 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of run-of-mine (ROM) coal and produce 10Mtpa of export-quality coal. It is estimated to have a mine life of up to 50 years.

The project is expected to create 350 construction jobs and 545 operational jobs.

Byerwen coal project location and geology

The Byerwen coal project is hosted within the North Bowen Basin, which is an integral part of a group of Permian-Triassic basins in eastern Australia.

It falls within the government areas of Whitsunday Regional Council and Issac Regional Council.

The mine is contained within six mining lease application (MLA) areas that span over 22,697 hectares (ha). Spread over 6,997ha, the project includes the development of infrastructure in 907ha and mine pits and dumping waste rocks in 6,091ha.

Coal in the mine site is present within both the Moranbah and Rangal coal measures of the Permian age. The Moranbah coal measure is the main stratigraphic unit of interest of Byerwen and is made up of seven coal seams. The coal measures have a thickness of approximately 290m and strike in north-south direction dipping to the east at between 4° and 12°.

The Rangal coal measures overlay the Fort Cooper coal measures, which are located above the Moranbah coal measures. Coal from the Rangal coal measures is proposed to be mined from two eastern pits after year 25.

Coal reserves at the Byerwen project

The Byerwen coal project is estimated to contain coal resources of approximately 690Mt.

Coal mining and processing at Byerwen coal mine

The ROM coal is mined from four mining zones, which comprise eight open-cut pits. The mining fleet includes dragline and large excavators, trucks, and dozers.

Mining will be commenced in west pit 1 within the southern tenement area, which is located close to infrastructure facilities. Initial focus is on mining the lower-most Moranbah coal measure seams, while production from the north phase is expected to be commenced from year 16 onwards.

Coal will be processed at two coal handing and preparation plants (CHPP) – northern and southern, which are proposed to be commissioned by the end of 2018. The southern CHPP will be used to process coal for the first 16 years of operation, while production will be scaled back when the northern CHPP is commissioned in the 17th year.

The CHPPs will consist of two-stage dense medium cyclones, classifiers, froth flotation, and co-disposal systems to produce thermal and coking coal.

The ROM coal will be crushed, washed, and processed to produce hard coking and thermal coal products. The product coal will be loaded into trains with the help of train loading facilities (TLFs) and will be transported to the port of Abbot Point coal terminal for export to international markets.

Coal off-take from Byerwen

JFE Steel entered a long-term off-take contract with QCoal for the supply of two million tons (Mt) of hard coking coal a year from Byerwen, in December 2009.

Contractors involved

Macmahon was awarded a three-year mining contract, worth $350m, for the Byerwen coal mine in August 2017. The scope of work includes all the mining operations and bulk earthworks.

Macmahon Contractors subcontracted Liebherr for the supply of one R 9800 excavator and two R 996B excavators for the project. Macmahon subcontracted the drilling works at Byerwen to Action Drill and Blast (ADB), a subsidiary of NRW Holdings, in October 2017.

Sedgman, a CIMIC Group company, designed the Byerwen CHPP in 2016, and was awarded the contract to operate and maintain the CHPP in November 2018. Sedgman also supplied a stockpiling and train load-out facility under a separate engineering, procurement, and construction contract.