The Solntsevsky coal mine is an open-pit coal mining operation by East Mining Company (EMCO) in the Sakhalin region of Russia.

Although experimental mining in the Uglegorsk region was started in 1983, the Solntevsky coal mine became the first open-cast mine to commence commercial operations in the Sakhalin mining region in 1987.

In 2011, EMCO acquired the licenses to work at the Yuzhnuy-2 site which was estimated to hold more than 130 million tonnes (Mt) of coal reserves. It made Solntsevsky be the biggest mining operation in the Uglegorsk district. The company also acquired the nearby Shakhtersk port in the same year.

EMCO, which is the major coal producer in the Sakhalin region, has been investing significantly in mine automation and digitisation to boost production and improve efficiency at the Solntsevsky coal mine.

It presented its first results after the completion of a digitalisation project involving Karyer automated dispatching system to reduce the loading of dump trucks and the introduction of a high-speed refueling system for the mining and transport equipment, in September 2020.

The mine produced more than 5Mt of coal in the first six months of 2020 compared to 3.8Mt in the same period in 2019. The coal production at the Solntsevsky coal mine is expected to be increased to 10Mtpa by 2021.

Project location and geology

The Solntsevsky coal mine is located approximately 28km away from the town of Shakhtersk in the Uglegorsk district of Sakhalin Oblast, in the Sakhalin Island.

The Sakhalin Island is part of the north-western Pacific Rim which is overlain by Cretaceous to Paleocene deformed and metamorphosed accretionary rocks including flysch, blueschists, melange, and ophiolites. The westerly and northerly paleo-Amur strata are underlain by partly conformable Cretaceous to Paleocene flysch and forearc strata including volcanic and intrusive rocks.

Coal reserves at Solntsevsky

The proven coal reserves at the Solntsevsky coal mine are estimated to be up to 300Mt.

The coal mineralisation at the deposit is composed of low to mid-ash content lignite and bituminous coal formations. The coal deposits occur in 18 coal seams with each seam measuring approximately 16m in thickness.

Mining operations

The open-pit mining operations are being currently carried out at the Yuzhnuy-1 and Yuzhnuy-2 sites within the Solntsevsky coal deposit.

The mining fleet comprises 29 excavation and load equipment including excavators, dozers, and graders. It includes a 23m3 EX3600E-6LD hydraulic excavator and a Russian-made fully electrical EKG-20 excavator which was introduced in May 2019.

The BelAZ haul fleet is composed of 16 units of 55t trucks, 21 units of 90t trucks, 34 units of 130t trucks, and 80 units of 220t haul trucks out of which approximately 110 trucks are put in operation during a work shift.

Shakhtersk seaport

A 26km long conveyor line was constructed in September 2019 to connect the Solntsevsky coal mine and the seaport of Shakhtersk that serves as the major coal export terminal for East Mining Company.

The coal is loaded from the coal terminals into bulk carriers of up to 3500 tonnes (t) deadweight capacity carriers via a ship-loading machine and a gantry crane equipped with loading grab buckets of 11-14 cubic meters.

The seaport has a processing capacity of more than 4.4 thousand tonnes of coal per hour. The coal from the Shakhtersk seaport is mostly shipped to offshore companies in the Asia-Pacific regions.

The Shakhtersk port exported 8.8Mt of coal in 2019 which was expected to be increased to 10.6Mt in 2020.

Contractors involved

The conveyor system connecting the mine to the port of Shakhtersk was provided by the French engineering company RBL-REI.

Vostochnaya Mining Company (VGK) was responsible for the installation of the high-speed refueling system for the Solntsevsky coal mine.