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Whitehaven Coal will take on Rio Tinto's 75 per cent interest in the Winchester South coal development project, 30km south-east of Moranbah, for $200 million.

Total consideration is comprised of $150 million payable to Rio Tinto by Whitehaven on the date of completion and a further unconditional payment of $50 million payable 12 months after the date of completion.

The news comes after an announcement this week that Glencore is buying Rio Tinto’s majority stake in the Hail Creek coal mine and adjacent coal resources, as well as its 71.2 per cent interest in the Valeria coal resource, for $2.2 billion (US$1.7 billion).

A separate process remains under way to sell Rio Tinto's interest in the Kestrel underground mine, the company’s remaining Australian coal asset.

Whitehaven Coal managing director and chief executive officer Paul Flynn described Winchester South as a significant strategic acquisition, offering an opportunity to develop and operate a high-quality, large scale coking coal mine in one of the world’s premier coking coal basins.

“Winchester South will form a key part of the company’s longer term growth plan and complements our Vickery project in the Gunnedah Basin as another high quality asset which will help Whitehaven respond to the strong and growing demand for premium coking coal that exists in Asian markets,” he said.

“Whitehaven generates the greatest value for shareholders where the company can deploy its full breadth of skills across approvals, construction and operations and the Winchester South project aligns perfectly with these strengths.”

The Scentre Group currently owns the remaining 25 per cent of Winchester South.

The project has a JORC resource of 356Mt and would produce coking coal and thermal coal products.

It would suit an open-cut mine and would potentially offer a 20 - 30 year mine life at a ROM production rate of 7.5Mtpa to 15.0Mtpa, although significant exploration potential remains.

Whitehaven to pay $200m for Qld coal project
The new Meteor Downs South mine, 45km south-east of Springsure, is expected to start sending coal to the Minerva rail load-out facility for transport to port within three weeks.

Minerva mine operator Sojitz Coal Mining is developing the thermal coal mine in joint venture with U&D Mining.

Sojitz Coal Mining managing director and chief executive officer Cameron Vorias said wet weather had delayed work on the site, however the team developing the box cut had reached coal last week.

"We are not mining coal at the moment, we are still developing the pit, but we have intersected coal," he said.

"Construction efforts are still ongoing for construction of the run-of-mine stockpile area and the commissioning of the road haulage facilities.

"As of last week, we've managed to secure a conditional approval for the use of the road from the Meteor Downs mine to the Minerva mine, so that was a fairly significant milestone to be completed.

"We are now waiting for the last of the development of the open cut and some further water management  structures to be built as well as finalisations of the ROM stockpile before coal is crushed and put on trucks for haulage to Minerva."

The truck and shovel operation is expected to produce about 500,000 tonnes per annum for the first two years, when Meteor Downs South will rely on road haulage to get its coal to the Minerva rail load-out facility for transport to Gladstone port.

This will be ramped up to 1.5Mtpa when its own rail load-out facility comes online.

New coal mine gears up for first shipment
A new $6.8 million dredging program is planned for the Port of Karumba to create a channel depth of 3.2m.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the investment followed the decision by New Century Resources to recommence shipping operations through Karumba from October this year.

“This will be a significant contributor to regional growth in the North West of the State,” Mr Bailey said.

“It is certainly being well received by the local council and port users who appreciate its importance to the economy of Karumba and the Gulf region more broadly.”

New Century Resources will provide a $2 million upfront contribution to the dredging, while Ports North will lend the remaining amount. This will be paid back by NCR on completion of the project.

The Karumba port channel was developed to facilitate the Century Mine operations in 1999.

The ongoing annual maintenance dredging of the channel was undertaken by the port owner and manager Ports North and the cost recovered from the Century Mine, until it suspended export operations through the port in 2016.

In 2016, the Palaszczuk Government funded a $1.7 million maintenance dredging campaign to ensure continued security of the cattle trade out of the port.

Since then, Ports North has been working with New Century Resources, who took over the Century mine and port facilities from MMG, to re-establish transhipment operations.

NCR’s projected annual export volume is 300,000 – 400,000 tonnes over an estimated mine life of 6.5 years.

Ports North chairman Russell Beer said the channel maintenance agreement with New Century was terrific news for the region’s port users, and for the economic sustainability of the Port of Karumba.

“The key now is for all regional stakeholders to take hold of this 6.5-year commitment by NCR and consolidate their industry well into the future,” he said.

Channel dredging at Karumba
Glencore has agreed to buy Rio Tinto’s majority stake in the Hail Creek coal mine and adjacent coal resources, as well as its 71.2 per cent interest in the Valeria coal resource, for $2.2 billion (US$1.7 billion).

The remaining 18 per cent of Hail Creek is currently owned by Nippon Steel Australia, Marubeni Coal, and Sumisho Coal Development.

Each joint venture partner has the right to sell its share to Glencore through a “tag-along” right, which could result in additional consideration of up to $441 million (US$340 million).

The Hail Creek mine is located 120km south-west of Mackay and in 2017 produced about 9.4 million tonnes of coal for export from the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal.

The Valeria thermal coal deposit is located 265km west of Rockhampton and 67km south-east of Glencore’s Clermont coal operation.  It has JORC resources of 762 million tonnes.

Glencore’s coal business managed the production of more than 87 million tonnes of saleable coal last year from 17 operational mines in Queensland and New South Wales.

Glencore and Rio Tinto in  $2.2b coal deal
NSS Cairns operations have clocked up four major project cargo shipments in recent months.

They included the final shipment of wind turbine equipment for Ratch Australia's Mt Emerald Wind Farm, under construction on the Atherton Tableland.

This included 12 tower sections, 26 hubs, 26 Nacelles and 11 x 40ft containers. It followed another delivery in February of 48 tower sections for the project.

NSS Cairns also helped unload 63 break bulk packages for transportation to MSF Sugar's $75 million green power plant, being built at their Tablelands Mill. 

In January, NSS was assigned to lift and shift a new 58-tonne reef vessel arriving in Cairns aboard the heavy-lift ship BBC Alberta.

The Calypso XII  was 24.4m long, 9m wide and 7.2 m high.

(Image below - ducting for the MSF project). 

Major movements in Cairns
Paynter Dixon Queensland has won the tender to construct stage 1 of the Whitsunday Coast Airport terminal expansion project.

The $15 million terminal expansion is due to start in April, with completion expected by November.

Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox said more than 20 local sub-contractors and suppliers had shared in a recent $25 million runway upgrade project and the winning terminal tenderer had promised to also utilise local contractors where possible.

“I am proud of our local buy policy which supports regional business and equates to creating jobs for locals,” he said.

“The terminal upgrade project and the runway upgrade will ensure vital airport infrastructure keeps pace with the forecast growth for the Whitsunday Region.

“I thank the Qld State Government for funding the $15 million terminal expansion project. Without their valuable support this project would not have been possible.”

The council’s long-term vision for Whitsunday Coast Airport would see it catering for international flights by long haul aircraft when the demand is there.

“There are a total of five stages of the rolling masterplan for development of the airport complex for the long term future,” Cr Willcox said.

“Each of the staged developments compliments the previous so nothing is being built and then removed,” he said

“The record passenger numbers we are now welcoming means the terminal requires a significant expansion.”

Whitsunday Cost Airport expansion contract announced