The United Wambo open-cut coal mine is a major coal mining project located in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, Australia. It is a joint venture project by Grencore and Peabody Energy to integrate the existing open-cut operations at the Wambo coal mine with a new open-cut mine at the adjacent United coal mine that has been put on care and maintenance since 2010.

The project will be developed through a 50:50 joint venture partnership between Wambo Coal and United Collieries. Wambo Coal is a subsidiary of Peabody Energy Australia while United Collieries is 95% owned by Glencore Coal with the remaining 5% stake held by Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union (CFMEU).

The £287m ($380m) United Wambo coal project was approved by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC), New South Wales to extract an additional 150 million tonnes (Mt) of coal at a rate of up to 10 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) over a period of 23 years in August 2019.

The open-cut coal project is expected to create approximately 500 full-time job opportunities.

Project background

The Wambo coal mining operations were started in the late 1960s while mining at the United coal mine was started in 1989.

Open-cut mining operations continued at the United coal mine from 1989 to 1992 while underground operations continued from 1992 till the mine was put into care and maintenance in 2010. The total production capacity approved for both open-cut and underground operations at the United coal mine site was 14.7Mtpa.

The current operations at the Wambo mining site commenced in 2004 and are authorised to produce 8Mtpa of coal.

The Wambo coal mine comprises both open-pit and underground operations. The underground operations at the Wambo site include the North Wambo, the South Bates, the Arrowfield, and the Bowfield underground mines. The North Wambo operations have been completed while South Bates is still operational. Operations at the other two sites are yet to commence.

The Wambo open-cut mine produced 3.3Mt of coal in 2019, while the Wambo underground mine produced 2.2Mt of coal in the same year.

United Collieries and Wambo Coal entered into a joint venture for the United Wambo open-cut coal mine project in November 2014.

Location, geology, and reserves

The United Wambo coal project site is situated in the Hunter Coalfield region of New South Wales, approximately 16km west of Singleton and approximately 200km away from Sydney.

The Hunter Coalfield is situated in the Sydney Basin, which forms the southern part of the Sydney-Gunnedah-Bowen Basin.

The United and the Wambo coal deposits comprise the Whybrow, Redbank, Wambo, Whynot, and the Arrowfield coal seams belonging to the Wittingham, Newcastle, and Greta Coal Measures.

The estimated recoverable coal reserves for the United Wambo open-cut coal project are estimated to be 176Mt.

Mining and coal handling for the United Wambo coal project

The conventional open-cut mining method involving truck and excavator/shovel operations will be employed for the United Wambo integrated coal project. The run-of-the-mine (ROM) coal will be transported to the existing coal handling and preparation plant (CHPP) at the site.

The existing coal handling infrastructure comprises conveyors, stockpiles, and train loading facilities.

Upgrades will be carried out for overburden emplacement and storage areas, and a 2km section of the Golden Highway will be realigned, as part of the United Wambo joint venture project.

Contractors involved with the United Wambo open-cut coal project

Modular Mining was selected to supply its DISPATCH® fleet management and ProVision® machine guidance systems for the United Wambo open-cut coal mine project in August 2020.

The fleet management system (FMS) will allow management of haulage cycles of the 39 trucks and six loading units, while the ProVision system will provide high-precision guidance to the excavator, dozer, and drill fleet of the mine.

Modular Mining also provided the Crusher application programming interface (API) for the project.

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) report of the project was prepared by Umwelt Australia, while AGE was engaged for the groundwater impact assessment.