Wesfarmers has grown into one of Australia’s largest diversified listed corporation since its origin in 1914. With undertakings in coal mining under the auspices of their auxiliary, Wesfarmers Resources, the conglomerate has investments in two world-scale coal mines.

Cast Study

Wesfarmers has grown into one of Australia’s largest diversified listed corporation since its origin in 1914. With undertakings in coal mining under the auspices of their auxiliary, Wesfarmers Resources, the conglomerate has investments in two world-scale coal mines. The division’s operations consist of the Curragh mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin (metallurgical and steaming coal for export and domestic markets) and a 40 per cent interest in the Bengalla mine in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales (steaming coal for export markets). (1)

Curragh is a residential open-pit coal mine located 14km north-west of Blackwater, approximately 2 hours west of Rockhampton. Covering an area of approximately 12,600 hectares, mining takes place on the Aries, Castor, Pollux and Pisces seams within the rich Rangal Coal Measures. The quarrying practices employed include conventional open-cut dragline and truck-shovel methods with some assistance from bulk dozer push. Export metallurgical coal is transported 300 kilometres by rail to the Port of Gladstone where it is shipped to customers in Japan, South-East Asia, Europe and South America. Curragh’s steaming coal is produced for domestic power generation and moved by rail directly to the Stanwell Power Station near Rockhampton. Coal is transported for processing to the Coal Handling and Preparation Plant (CHPP) on a 20km long overland conveyor system from Curragh North to Curragh, the longest single flight conveyor in the world (2). Wesfarmers lowered its production for 2012-13 due, to some extent, to cost-cutting measures, reduced shift rosters, planned shutdowns and the negative impact of flooding in the aftermath of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald which affected rail and port availability. Despite such ongoing challenges, Curragh managed to produce 2.3% more metallurgical coal in 2013 than in 2012. The company’s confidence in the longer-term outlook of Curragh’s export coal business is reflected with further reserves expansion agreement and acquisition of mineral development licences. (3) (4)

In mining, increasing field maintenance is critical to boost asset performance, a vital element impacting directly on production. Most minor repairs can be done while the plant is in operation. However, critical maintenance activities have to be performed during a scheduled shutdown. To sustain such process, UGL has been appointed by Wesfarmers Curragh. UGL provides highly specialised solutions to develop or enhance asset’s performance over its entire life cycle with shutdown services and industrial upkeep (5). They have been at Curragh since 2010 with a long standing contract in place. Curragh’s mine assets are diverse and include coal haulers, rear dump trucks, loading units, shovels, dozers, graders, and ancillary equipment. To perform some of the most demanding material moving challenges, a fleet of draglines is on site including two Marion 8200 draglines – DL 301 and DL 302, a Marion 8750 super dragline – DL 304 (one of the world’s largest model with a 114m3 bucket) and a Marion 8750 dragline – DL 303. Currently, UGL is at Curragh for a ten week program executing a shutdown on DL 301 – a Marion 8200 dragline.

Maintenance is often hard to optimise owing to mining’s special challenges. A plant shutdown for scheduled major repair work is the main factor of downtime with the loss of production and the expense of the turnaround itself. Maintenance costs typically encompass 30% to 50% of a mine’s total operating costs. In addition, more than 60% of the total mine workforce can be almost exclusively focused in the servicing of complex assets (6). Hence, effective plant turnaround management with short duration shutdown is paramount to the operation.

“Industry downtime is the prevailing challenge, therefore we recognise the importance of reliable and efficient machinery” said Brian Lynch, Project Manager / Business Manager of Major Projects Division at UGL. “It is critical to have an adequate setup right here on site to store costly equipment, minimise turnaround time, and protect our maintenance personnel from the punishing mining conditions”. When evaluating various building needs, the crucial element of flexibility, versatility, mobility, and cost-effectiveness are supreme. “Back in the days, conventional structures with steel columns took far too long to plan, design and build to specs. They took too long to erect and had all kinds of engineering implications; all of which led to delays, frustration and costly downtime” Lynch said. “We needed fabric covered buildings, durable shelters that were quick and easy to deploy, easy to dismantle, and easy to move for the rapid deployment of our maintenance personnel”.

Allshelter, Australia’s first manufacturer of Container Shelters and one the most sought after alternative covering system in the resources industry, was the preferred provider. Family owned and operated, Allshelter was established in 1999 and works alongside registered structural engineers and fabric experts to refine their process and technology. Their easy-to-install curved shelter system, made from modular steel framework covered by a water proof membrane, attaches simply and easily to the containers providing a combination of secure storage together with undercover area. “What attracted us to Allshelter is because they are renowned for quality. Quality is the most important aspect for us as well as longevity. We did not mind paying a bit more because we knew that the shelters would last longer than any other competitive product out there” Lynch disclosed.

Three separate structures were ordered from Allshelter. The larger container shelter, model CA16-12C, is primarily used as assembly area, personnel under cover area, consumable storage, refurbishing and engineering area. The Allshelter CA7-6C and CA10-12C are used primarily as workshop areas, storage, fabrication and overhaul area. Available in kit-form, these flexible environmentally adaptive structures can be assembled using on-site personnel. “They were easy to unload, transport and install” Lynch told. “We simply ordered from the Allshelter standard range and it was exactly what we needed. Additionally, it took us little time to have all three structures up. We could get going straight away, saving so much valuable time and money”.

The mining environment can be demanding on people and equipment. Curragh is committed to protect the health and safety of all employees and contractors by maintaining the highest workplace standards. Ideal for mine sites, short term or long term projects, the aesthetically pleasing Container Shelters minimise costly downtime due to rain or other weather elements, and maximise employee efficiency due to fittingly ventilated conditions out of the sun. The high strength, semi-translucent, woven polyethylene fabric provides ultra violet protection, natural light and cooler environment. Furthermore, all structures are site specific wind rated and can be engineered to withstand over 300km/h winds with the cover left on. “The safety of our people is paramount. This gives us all peace of mind. Having the Allshelters on site has improved both staff morale and productivity”

Allshelter weather protection systems weigh less than 50% of a conventional structure, are easy to take down and transport in case of relocation. “This is an important benefit to us. Our program for 2014 consists of Major Shutdowns at three Blue Chip client’s sites: The Wesfarmers Curragh DL 301 Major Shutdown (10 week program); then at Glencore Rolleston DL 02 Major Shutdown (6.5 week program); then at Rio Tinto Hail Creek DL 007 Major Shutdown (5 week program)” Lynch stated. “All three Allshelters we have purchased will be erected and utilised at each project”.

In the dynamic world of an open-pit mine site where landscape changes with every shovel removed, it is empowering to count on the reliability of the equipment asset. “The Allshelter weather protection systems gave us the flexibility and versatility to deal with any situation which is critical in a shutdown operation. It helps us get the job done quickly. Allshelter makes life easy” concluded Mr Brian Lynch.

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