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THE BEST OF 2021: Yancoal

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The beginning of Pelton Colliery – Photo courtesy of A. Galloway, Ed Tonks Collection

Mount Thorley Warkworth & Ashton Coal Mine

Yancoal is committed to investing in the communities in which it operates and partnering with community groups to achieve meaningful outcomes. One of the ways it does is through their Community Support Program, which has been specifically designed to invest in projects, programs and initiatives that are designed to make a difference to the lives of others.

Each year, Yancoal allocates funds at both a site and corporate level to provide financial support to community groups and programs operating across the areas of health, community, environment, arts, culture, education or training. Since its inception, Yancoal’s Community Support Program has invested considerable funds into local initiatives across Australia and has forged partnerships with organisations such as the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, The Clontarf Foundation and the Queensland University of Technology Cancer and Aging Research Program.

Yancoal are proud supporters of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service

On a local level, both Mount Thorley Warkworth (MTW) and Ashton Coal operate their own site Community Support Programs, and in 2021 partnered with many organisations in the local community to help make a difference.

MTW provided a much-needed electronic scoreboard for the basketballers at Singleton PCYC. Their basketball program has been growing in popularity and the new scoreboard will enable them to host competitions and expand even further.

The Howes Valley Rural Fire Service (RFS) are cooking up a storm in their newly upgraded kitchen thanks to MTW. During the bushfires a real need was recognised for the 40 plus volunteer firefighters to have a place where they could refuel and recharge between battling blazes, and the newly renovated kitchen provides just that.

For several years, MTW has supported the Samaritans Christmas Lunch in Singleton, ‘A Picnic at Singleton Showground’. The annual Lunch is organised specifically for those who may otherwise be unable to celebrate Christmas.

Ashton’s Community Support Program in 2021 provided five local community organisations in the Upper Hunter share with over $25,000 of funding. In its tenth year, Ashton’s program continues to make a difference to the lives of people who live and work in the community.

This year, the program funded solar panels for Singleton Heights Pre-School, instructor training at Singleton Pony Club, facility upgrades at Singleton PCYC, water filtration points at Australian Christian College, and education and training at Singleton Gymkhana.

Together, MTW and Ashton were joint sponsors of The University of Newcastle’s award-winning Science and Engineering Challenge in June, which was delivered over three exciting days in Muswellbrook. The not-for-profit Science and Engineering Challenge program is aimed at stimulating interest in STEM fields by exploring scientific concepts with practical problem solving. This STEM investment in local student’s futures has been in place since 2002, making Yancoal the longest serving sponsor of the Challenge.

We can’t wait to see how Yancoal’s Community Support Program will make a difference to our communities in 2022.

Austar Coal Mine

The Austar coal mine produced high-grade metallurgical coal for over 100 years until being transitioned to closure in February 2021. Despite the cessation of coal mining, there will be plenty of activity at Austar over the coming years as Yancoal undertakes closure, rehabilitation and restorative work at the site in preparation for the eventual relinquishment of Austar’s mining leases.       

The amount of preparation and sophisticated planning that is required to ensure the safe and effective closure and rehabilitation of a mine site is probably a surprise to many in the community. Rehabilitation and closure commitments and obligations are established and enforced under a range of Government regulatory mechanisms, and the planning and execution of works to address these regulatory requirements takes several years.

Yancoal has implemented a rigorous, risk-based and staged approach in planning for closure of the Austar site. Initial activity involves the identification of a range of issues that need to be assessed and addressed, including: closure risks and opportunities; the range of relevant stakeholders to be impacted by closure and rehabilitation activities; likely knowledge gaps within the organisation; and an awareness of legal or other regulatory obligations.  During the early stages of the closure process subject matter experts are engaged to undertake detailed assessments and to develop closure execution plans.

A raft of studies are already being undertaken at the Austar site on issues such as: ground and surface water; the historic heritage of existing structures; emplacement area and tailings dam design; remediation of surface facilities; and mine sealing options.

During this planning period at Austar, Yancoal continues to manage the site in accordance with its environmental compliance obligations and will regularly engage with the community and relevant stakeholders to ensure they are aware of what is happening at site.

Management and monitoring of the site will continue for many years to verify that successful rehabilitation and restoration has been achieved, so that the lease can be relinquished and the land returned to a beneficial post mining land use for future generations.

AUSTAR COAL MINE TIMELINE

1916 – Underground mining commenced at Pelton Colliery
1960/61 – Pelton’s Coal Handling Preparation Plant constructed
Late 1960s – Cessnock No. 1 Colliery (Kalingo) amalgamated into Pelton
1978 – Underground mining commenced at Ellalong Colliery with coal delivered to Pelton washery by overland conveyor
1983 – Ellalong pioneers the first longwall in the South Maitland Coalfields, and steam power is replaced by diesel electric locomotives on South Maitland Railways
1992 – Underground mining ceased at Pelton
1995 – Pelton Open Cut Coal Mine established
1998 – Ellalong and Pelton amalgamated with Bellbird South Colliery and renamed Southland Colliery
2003 – Underground fire caused the mine to be placed on care and maintenance for 18 months
2004 – Yancoal purchased Southland and changed the name to Austar Coal Mine
2006 – Yancoal pioneers the introduction of Longwall Top Coal Caving Technology into Australia at Austar
2016 – Austar celebrates 100 years and is the last remaining coal mine in the Cessnock area
2020 – Austar enters care and maintenance
2021 – Austar commences transition to closure

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