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Futura Resources, Coalface

Futura Resources has washed and sent their first load of coal from Wilton mine to the Port of Gladstone marking a significant milestone for the future of coal in Queensland.

Futura Resources is Australian-owned and was founded in late 2017. That’s when the company picked up the Fairhill and Wilton coal projects adjacent to each other, 50 kilometres northeast of Emerald in the Bowen Basin.

CEO of Futura Resources Ben Dunlop said the projects are unique because they are in a large area of deep-to-outcropping Fort Cooper Coal Measures.

“The Fort Coopers are extensive right across Queensland and right through the Bowen Basin, but they haven’t been mined as a standalone coal sequence before, so Futura is the first company to do that.

“The reason behind that is they are a little bit atypical of coal in Queensland – Queensland is blessed with some thick, geologically benign, high yielding, great quality coal seams, however that isn’t quite what we have here.

“These seams, while very good quality, are a little thinner and banded, meaning they require selective mining, like what occurs in the Surat Basin or the Hunter Valley which is the main reason why they haven’t been extracted to date.

“The resources are incredibly large though, there’s around 2.8 billion tonnes of coal on our leases alone,” said Ben.

Fairhill and Wilton have both been approved with 10-year mining leases. The coal is all export coal, primarily coking coal and then a secondary thermal coal product.

Due to the coal being quite shallow, about 10 metres below the surface, Futura doesn’t need a huge workforce. At Wilton there are about 30 staff with 15-20 contractors to support them, and as Fairhill ramps up later in the year, they’ll need between 120-150 staff long term to support that operation.

Futura is also very focused on supporting the local community with the main equipment supplier based in Emerald. All the staff are also locally based.

“We started operations at Wilton in November last year. We mined first coal in February, and we washed our first batch of coal in March which has already made its way to the port and onto a vessel.”

The Wilton project is likely to produce about 1Mt ROM this year with an approved output of 1.6Mtpa ROM. The coal is being processed using existing infrastructure at the nearby Gregory-Crinum mine which is powered 50 per cent by a solar facility.

Futura Resources, Coalface

“From where we sit, we are in a unique situation as one of the newer permitted mines in Queensland. As far as environmental impact goes and alignment with renewables, we have a strong direction that we want to move in and that we are ultimately required to move in.

“We’re looking at solar as an option to power all the Fairhill operation which is where the offices and main infrastructure will be. Our external monitoring equipment like air and noise is all already solar powered,” explained Ben.

“We clearly see a future for coal both in supporting energy transition globally and as a key ingredient for steelmaking. We’re committed to supporting these coal projects and similar projects across the state.”

Ben has worked in mining for much of his career, as have the owners of Futura, and he says while the future of mining is potentially challenging, it’s too crucial not only for our country but others.

“I can see both sides of the coin when it comes to mining, but for me and Futura, there is very clearly an ongoing demand and requirement for coking coal for steelmaking. This is the primary coal we produce, and without steel we can’t support the ongoing development of required infrastructure, such as roads, schools, and hospitals here or overseas.

“From our perspective, we’re very excited to get into operation. What we see here is the next generation of coal.

“We’re proud to have been able to bring the Fort Coopers to a standalone mining project,” said Ben.

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