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Thermal Coal Industry – Is Longwall Mining Currently a Life-of-mine Option in Australia?


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Author T W C Stambolie


Longwall mining is a form of underground mining and the principal extraction method for underground coal mining in Australia. The method is used in the mining of both thermal and metallurgical coal. The primary market for thermal longwall mines is that of the export market where price is governed against the Newcastle Thermal Benchmark index (globalCOAL, 2016).

Australia’s thermal coal export outlook is considered moderate due to slower demand from major importing countries, as well as slowing domestic production. However, ‘Australia is projected to increase its share of world thermal coal exports and become the world’s largest exporter over the medium term as lower prices, increased domestic use and infrastructure constraints limit growth from other key suppliers’ (Office of the Chief Economist (OCE), 2016, pp 25, 58). On the contrary, and as a result of current global coal price trends, the basic economic principles of underground longwall coal mining are heavily stressed. From a life-of-mine perspective, influencing return on investment is at its greatest during project evaluation and execution. Appropriate and realistic economic assessment is paramount to ensuring the right outcomes are achieved under the current economic challenges.


Stambolie, T W C, 2016. Thermal coal industry – is longwall mining currently a life-of-mine option in Australia?, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2016 Conference, pp 57–61 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).