BMA's Daunia mine finally pulling coal from the ground
WITH little fanfare or fuss, one of the crowning jewels for the world's biggest mining company has begun pulling coal from Central Queensland's Bowen Basin.
The $1.5 billion Daunia mine from BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance began operating in March.
It will form half of a powerful pair, as its larger sister-project Caval Ridge pushes to start operating before the end of next year.
Daunia is not due to hit full steam until later this year when it first hits its annual 4.5 million tonne target.
Aside from working through thousands of conditions for its approval and eventual development, BMA also paid the Queensland Government $26.7 million as a "financial assurance".
The State takes the funds - which act like a bond on a rental home - as a protection in case the company abandons the site without taking on repairs.
The operation of Daunia comes as a glimmer of optimism in the face of a long-predicted fall in mining investment due to begin its fall this year.
A comprehensive report from Commonwealth's resource boffins suggested that descent would continue to 2018.
But its author - Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics' expert John Arthur - was far from pessimistic.
"We're turning that (earlier) investment into projects that will deliver economic benefits such as jobs and revenue to the Australian economy for years to come," he said.
In total, the mines will cost BMA $5.8 billion, on top of the $3.4 billion it was spending to expand its Broadmeadow mine and Hay Point Coal Terminal.
.After needing 1000 to build Daunia, BMA launched a recruitment drive for 1050 workers to help run Daunia and its giant sibling Caval Ridge - more than 18,000 applied.
BMA has created "assessment centres" in Brisbane and Cairns to start combing through short-listed candidates, with Daunia expected to have its 450 fly-in, fly-out workers by the end of June.
Central Queensland towns were furious about the plan to source workers from beyond their communities, backed by a fierce rebuke from the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.
BMA for its part insisted it was spreading the benefits of the industry to the rest of Queensland, particularly those areas with high unemployment.
The company declined to discuss the start of operations at Daunia before its official launch later this year, but in April released a statement about it cranking into action.
"Our Queensland Coal operations achieved a significant milestone ... with first production achieved at the Daunia mine, ahead of schedule," it reported.
"The continued ramp up of this mine and the future commissioning of Caval Ridge will underpin an expected increase in the capacity of our Queensland Coal business to 66 million tonnes per annum by the end of the 2014 year."
- Value: $1.6 billion
- Location: 150km SW of Mackay,
- Workers: 1000 (construction), 450 in FIFO workforce.(operation)
- Size: 2690 hectares
- Build time: Two years.
- Length of production: 21 years.
- Style: open-cut, metal-making coal.
- Capacity: 4.5 million tonnes per year.