The Vickery Extension project is an open-cut coking coal mining development proposed in New South Wales, Australia. The project incorporates the extension of the Vickery coal project which was approved in September 2013.

Whitehaven Coal, the owner, and developer of the project submitted the development application along with the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Vickery Extension project to the NSW Independent Planning Commission in August 2018 and received approval for the same in August 2020.

The coal mining project is expected to generate approximately 500 construction jobs and 450 operational jobs, and contribute a net economic benefit of £660m (A$1.2bn) including £360m (A$656m) in royalty payments to the New South Wales Government.

The mine life of the Vickery coal project is estimated to be approximately 25 years.

Vickery coal mine development background

Mining at Vickery commenced in 1986 as a small underground operation by Namoi Valley Coal, a subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto (now Rio Tinto) and it continued until March 1991.

It was followed by open-cut operations from 1991 to 1998 extracting approximately 4 million tonnes (Mt) of coal. Mining operations at Vickery ceased and the mine was put under rehabilitation in May 1998.

The Vickery mine site was subsequently put under care and maintenance, while Whitehaven acquired 100%  ownership of the mining lease from Rio Tinto in January 2010.

Project location and geology

The Vickery coal mining project is located approximately 25km north of Gunnedah within the Gunnedah Basin, in New South Wales, Australia. The project involves the mining of coal reserves within the approved Vickery Project as well as additional reserves within mining leases EL7407, ML1718, and CL 316.

The project is located within the Maules Creek sub-basin of the Early Permian Bellata Group. The primary coal-bearing Maules Creek Formation consists of conglomerate, coal, lithic sandstones, and mudstones that are underlain by the basal Goonbri and Leard Formations of the Gunnedah Basin sedimentary sequence. The Goonbri Formation is dominated by pyritic sandstone, siltstone, and inferior coal seams.

Coal reserves at Vickery

The Vickery project was estimated to hold 200Mt of probable coal reserves as of August 2019.

Mining and coal processing

The Vickery Extension project will use the traditional open-cut mining method involving a conventional drill and blast operations. The mining depth will extend up to 250m below ground level and the mining fleet will comprise excavators, shovels and haul trucks.

The average mining rate is estimated to be 7.2 million tonnes per annum, while the peak run-of-the-mine (ROM) production rate is projected to be 10Mtpa.

approved open cut mine will be expanded targeting up to eight coal seams of the Maules Creek Formation while the base of the open-cut will be the Cranleigh Seam.

The ROM coal will be transported to the Whitehaven coal handling and processing plant (CHPP) located on the outskirts of Gunnedah approximately 20km to the south of the open-pit area. The processing rate will depend on market requirements, product specifications, and blending requirements.

Raw coal will undergo wet sizing to separate the coarse and fine crushed ore. The larger fraction of ores will be transferred to the coarse coal circuit while the smaller fraction will be fed to the fine coal circuit for dewatering. The product coal from both circuits will be stockpiled before transportation.

A thickener will be used to concentrate portions of the fine reject material from the dewatering circuit prior to being moved to the reject bin.

Project infrastructure

The mine area is accessible via the Braymont Road and a private access road from the Blue Vale Road. Once the open pit operations start, a portion of the road will be closed and the undisturbed section will be extended to the Blue Vale Road realignment.

The Vickery coal project is expected to require approximately 62,700MWh of power annually which will be supplied via a 66kV powerline connecting a 66 kV/11 kV substation which will distribute power around the site infrastructures.

Raw water supply will be from the Namoi River pump station, while a local contractor will be hired to supply potable water.

Up to 90% of the construction workforce is expected to be accommodated in the existing Cievo operated Boggabri accommodation camp while the remaining 10% of the workforce will be from the local area.