Xstrata Coal resumes operations at Blakefield South mine, and expects to return to full production by mid-July. Operations at Blakefield South mine ceased in January 2011 when an underground fire ignited behind the mine’s longwall. Mine personnel were unable to re-enter the mine until June 2011 to begin planning and rebuilding the longwall.
Longwall production resumed on May 15, six weeks ahead of schedule. Mine personnel redeployed at Beltana, West Wallsend and Ravensworth during the Blakefield South closure have been recalled. Newly-recruited staff are presently training at Xstrata Coal’s underground training facility at Baal Bone mine in western New South Wales.
“Our team at Blakefield South has done an amazing job to safely recover the mine after the fire, rebuild the longwall, and resume production ahead of an ambitious timetable,” said Mark Munro, operations manager, Xstrata Coal. “We thank them for their commitment and resourcefulness.”
Producing approximately 10 million metric tons per year of semi soft coking and thermal coal, Blakefield South is part of Xstrata Coal’s Bulga Complex, which also includes an open cut mine and a coal handling and preparation plant.
Xstrata Coal has been using the Baal Bone mine in the Western Coalfields, about 26 km northwest of Lithgow in New South Wales, as its regional training center, where new recruits will spend 12 weeks learning mining skills. In addition to formal classroom instructions, they learn to operate equipment on the surface before proceeding underground to operate the equipment in a ‘real world’ environment.