Australia

Russell Vale Mine

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Overview

Mine TypeUnderground
StatusTemporary Suspension
Commodities
  • Coal (metallurgical)
  • Coal (metallurgical & thermal)
Mining Method
  • Bord-and-pillar
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SnapshotSince reopening in September 2021 after six years in care and maintenance, the Russell Vale mine has produced metallurgical coal for steelmaking from the rich Wongawilli Seam in the Illawarra.

Wollongong Resources has approval to extract 3.7 million tonnes of coal from the Wongawilli Seam over the five-year period 2021 to 2026.

Russell Vale has experienced underground fires in recent times, prompting the New South Wales Resources Regulator to place a prohibition order stopping work at the site on January 18, 2024.

On February 5, 2024, Wollongong Resources the decision was made to close the mine due to “ongoing regulatory risk”.

Owners

SourceSource
CompanyInterestOwnership
Wollongong Resources Pty. Ltd. (operator) 100 % Indirect
Wollongong Coal Limited owns and operates the Russell Vale Colliery which is an underground coal mine north of Wollongong in NSW.

On 7 July 2022, Wollongong Coal Limited changed its name to Wollongong Resources Pty. Ltd.

Deposit type

  • Sedimentary

Summary:

The coal seams of interest in the Illawarra Coal Measures are the Bulli, Balgownie and Wongawilli Seams. At Russell Vale, the Illawarra Coal Measures are overlain by the Narrabeen Group, the thick sequences of Triassic Hawkesbury Sandstone and in parts, the Wianamatta Group.

The Wongawilli Seam is on average around 27m below the Bulli seam at Russel Vale. The Wongawilli Seam has a typical total thickness of 8 – 11 metres over the project area and is characterised by a series of kaolinitic mudstone partings in the seam. The basal part of the seam contains the highest proportion of coal and is typically targeted in underground mines in the area including Wongawilli and Dendrobium (South32 Limited).

Depth of cover to the Wongawilli ranges from 200-320m in the Wonga East area, increasing to 400- 450m in the west. Most of the variation in depth of cover arises from the surface topography.

The Wongawilli Seam dips towards the north-west at less than two degrees in the Wonga East area as shown. The dip direction swings to the west in the Wonga West area towards a broad syncline structure known as the South Bulli Syncline. In the eastern portion of the tenement boundary the coal seams outcrop on the escarpment.

There are several dykes that traverse the south-eastern project area mostly orientated in a WSW-ESE direction while occasional dykes (mostly trending NE to NW) are located to the west. Numerous dykes have been encountered in previous workings and they are typically less than 3m in thickness. Many have been altered to clay and do not cause major issues for underground operations.

A large area of silling in the Wongawilli Seam has been delineated through drilling and affects the northern part of the Wonga East area, limiting the mining area in a northerly direction. Sills are often present and associated with dykes and have preferentially intruded the coal seams. As the Wongawilli Seam is thick sills have intruded the seam at different levels and to varying degrees of replacement and heat affectation.

Large displacement faults in the Southern Coalfields consist primarily of normal faults with dips of between 70 and 85 degrees, trending NW or NNW. Another set of faults is in the coastal zone and trending NE although most faulting in the Wonga East area is oriented broadly WNW. Definition of faulting at Russell Vale is generally quite good based on the experiences of mining the overlying Bulli and Balgownie seams as fault locations are similar (slight offset) in the Wongawilli Seam.

The Wongawilli Seam has several well-known and easily identified claystone partings which generally increase towards the top of the seam. The Wongawilli Seam shows deterioration in quality in the north when compared to the southern part of the coalfields.

The basal working sections (from the base of the seam upwards) of the Wongawilli Seam in the Wonga East area deliver a moderate ash (>30%) coal. Raw ash content of the Wongawilli standard section generally increases from west to east across the Wonga East area coupled with decrease in working section height and decrease in yield. Raw ash content for the Wongawilli Standard section (excluding mining losses and dilution) ranges from 26 - 38% (ad) in the Wonga East area. Typically ranges between 29 and 34% (adb) in the proposed mining area (Clark, 2017).

The Wongawilli Seam is a mid-volatile bituminous coal which can be washed to produce a hard-coking coal product. Mean maximum vitrinite reflectance (RoMax) for the Wongawilli Seam typically rangesbetween 1.29 and 1.35% in the Wonga East area. The rank increases slightly in a westerly direction towards the axis of the South Bulli Syncline.

Clean coal testing shows that the washed product has high vitrinite content (80%), high CSN (8 – 9) and high fluidity (up to 2000 ddm), with low to moderate total sulphur (0.50%) and low phosphorus (0.003%). Product ash is slightly in excess of 10% due to the high inherent ash content.

Reserves

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Mining Methods

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Comminution

Crushers and Mills

Milling equipment has not been reported.

Processing

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Production

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Operational metrics

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Production Costs

Commodity production costs have not been reported.

Heavy Mobile Equipment

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Personnel

Mine Management

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Aerial view:

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