The company has filed documents with the Queensland government’s Department of Environment, Science and Innovation seeking to amend the environmental approvals for both mines.
QCoal wants to expand the footprint of its Jax mine by 500 hectares. The company wants to revise the layout and sequencing of Jax’s mining plan to reflect recent exploration programs that have led to an updated model of its underlying coal resource. The proposed overall increase in Category A, representing the life of mine disturbance area, is approximately 500 hectares, representing a 53.8% increase in its current Category A area.
Jax has been in operation since 2013, and its mining lease allows for the extraction of 3.0 mt/y of met and thermal coal, run-of-mine basis, from the Moranbah and Fort Cooper coal measures.
QCoal wants to add a fourth mining lease for 73.7 hectares, Sonoma East 2 (SE2ML), to Sonoma’s existing three mining leases for 2,140 hectares, representing a 3.4% increase to its area.
“The proposed SE2ML is required to more effectively extract a known coal resource within the existing mining lease, and recover some additional resources on mining lease 10326, improving the economics of the Sonoma coal mine and minimising sterilisation of the underlying resource,” said QCoal in its application.
Sonoma opened in 2008 at a cost of A$200.0m and produces 4.0 mt/y of met and thermal coal. Sonoma is owned by a joint venture led by QCoal with 75%, along with JFE Shoji (9.1%), China Steel (8.3%), and Watami Trading a Hong Kong-based marketing company (7.5%).
QCoal’s Northern production hub
Jax and Sonoma are part of QCoal’s integrated Northern production hub, along with two other company mines – Cows 1.0 mt/y and Drake 6.0 mt/y – located 7-15 km south of Collinsville. Aurizon’s Newlands rail corridor for coal exports, part of its Central Queensland Coal Network, runs through the middle of QCoal’s Northern hub and is used to deliver cargo to Abbot Point.
Other QCoal mines
QCoal operates two other mines in Queensland, Cook colliery which it acquired from Bounty Mining in 2020, and Byerwen near the town of Moranbah that started up in 2017. Cook restarted operations in 2022 after the underground mine had been in care and maintenance since 2019, and the mine ships around 1.2 mt/y of coal through Gladstone port.
Last year, QCoal applied to the Australian federal government for approval to develop two box cuts at its Star coal project adjacent to Cook to provide bulk samples for potential customers. Around 1.0 mt/y of coal from the Star project located 20 km east of Blackwater in the Bowen Basin is to be processed at QCoal’s coal handling and preparation plant (CHPP) at its Cook mine.
QCoal Group awarded in March 2023, a A$440.0m (US$295.3m) contract for mining services at its Byerwen mine to Australian company Macmahon Holdings through to June 2025. Byerwen has a production capacity of 10.0 mt/y for hard coking coal and exports through Abbot Point Coal Terminal. It is owned by a joint venture comprising QCoal Group on 85% and Japanese steelmaker JFE Steel with a 15% equity interest.
The expansion of the Jax and Sonoma mines is subject to approval from the Queensland government.