Glencore has created a culture of excellence across the safety and operational performance at the Mangoola CHPP (coal handling and preparation plant), this year’s National Group Mine of the Year. Ben Creagh writes.
Mangoola CHPP manager Chris March fondly regards the facility at the Glencore thermal coal mine in New South Wales as the second-best plant of its kind in the world.
It is the second in line, he cheekily adds, because the best CHPP hasn’t been built yet.
Mangoola CHPP, which is about 20 kilometres west of Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley region, didn’t finish second to anyone at the 2019 Australian Mining Prospect Awards.
In fact, the operation won a treble of awards – National Group Mine of the Year, SEW Eurodrive Coal Mine of the Year and the Flexco Excellence in Mine Safety, OH&S award.
While March may have initially been “blown away” with Mangoola’s trifecta, he didn’t seem overly shocked by it either, once he collected his thoughts.
“If I reflect on the success that Mangoola is as a whole, not just as a CHPP, in some way it is not surprising,” March tells Australian Mining.
“It is still an extraordinary effort and we are really humbled by the whole experience – it is incredible.”
It wasn’t the first time Mangoola had won at the Prospect Awards – in 2013 the then-emerging open cut operation also won the Mine of the Year award.
The first victory was around two-and-a-half years after Xstrata (now Glencore) produced first coal at the site in February 2011, when prices for the commodity were strong.
Following that win, however, Mangoola and the rest of the thermal coal industry endured a multi-year lull in prices that reached its lowest point at the start of 2016.
Despite the tough market conditions, Mangoola still managed to produce 9.3 million tonnes of saleable coal in 2015.
March, who has been at Mangoola since November 2010, says during the period of low prices the CHPP and overall site rebuilt its culture and established the foundation of the operation it has become today.
He says the culture at the entire site has been “second to none,” particularly in terms of its focus on leadership.
“We have spent the last three or four years developing a leader-leader culture right down to the front line because if it is not a bottom-up approach, it fails,” March says.
“We can stand there at the top and shout every day, but you have got to engage everybody in the team.
“As I say, we have adopted that motto, ‘champions do extra,’ which we shamelessly stole off the All Blacks and Brisbane Bronco’s great Brad Thorn. That is proudly displayed at our front gate.”
The CHPP, in basic terms, supports the open cut operation by processing mined coal to remove any unwanted materials. It then sizes the coal prior to transportation to domestic and export markets.
In 2019, the Mangoola CHPP has been forecast to handle 12.7 million tonnes of coal, slightly below the site’s approved capacity.
March says the overall Mangoola operation has operated with a lean workforce of around 380–390 people since a restructure in response to the market downturn.
He believes the site has become the envy of many other coal mines in the Hunter Valley region for how it operates.
“Our peers in the industry will say that we have such a low strip ratio, so it is easy for you,” March says.
“What they fail to realise is that with a low strip ratio the mining moves like a grass fire – they advance across ground quickly, it is like hand-to-mouth mining. It is not all plain sailing. We’ve had a lean team focussed on metrics and actioning the things that could slow us down every day.”
The CHPP is no different from the mining area in this regard – it operates with a lean workforce that relies on strong collaboration with each part of the site. March says nothing was overlooked in the development of the CHPP almost a decade ago and the current team has kept the plant on top of its capabilities.
Safety has also been a significant part of this culture, as reflected by Mangoola CHPP winning the Flexco Excellence in Mine Safety, OH&S award for developing an engineered solution for the difficult task of replacing the belly plates on an ABON chain feeder.
The award-winning solution is just a small part of Mangoola CHPP’s safety performance, however, with the site remaining lost time injury free since operations started in 2011.
Mangoola Coal operations manager Nick Slater, delighted with the operation’s recognition at the Prospect Awards, points out that the site’s contribution in the Hunter Valley region goes well beyond these feats.