Movers & Shakers: mining developments of the month

Gainwell’s GHWM300M high wall mining unit. Image: Vitrinite.

Keep up to date with the latest developments in Australian mining, including the Thunderbird mineral sands, Dartbrook coal and Kalgoorlie nickel projects.

Kimberley Mineral Sands awarded GR Engineering an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for Thunderbird operations in Western Australia, ahead of a final investment decision in mid-2022.

Assuming a decision is made in time, the project would reach first production towards the end of 2023.

GR Engineering Managing Director Geoff Jones said he was proud to continue the relationship with KMS in Thunderbird operations.

“We are extremely pleased to have been engaged to play a key role in the development of the world-class Thunderbird mineral sands project,” Jones said.

“GR Engineering has been associated with the project for several years and it is exciting to see this project move to the next stage of development.


Vitrinitis changed the coal mining game at its Vulcan coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin when it engaged Gainwell Engineering Global to supply a GHWM300M high wall mining unit.

This will represent the first use outside India for the machine which has been manufactured under license from Caterpillar.

According to Vitrinite, the introduction of highwall mining technology will play a significant role in the future of Australia’s mining industry, as it has in many other coal markets around the world.

“Highwall miners have proven to be safe, highly productive, have a low environmental impact and provide access to coal that would otherwise be blocked due to economic constraints,” the company said.

The private coal miner expects the first coal to be mined at Vulcan in 2023 and the success of initial development will determine the order of future high wall mining units.


Australian Pacific Coal (AQC) has been granted a five-year extension for mining operations at the Dartbrook Coal Mine in New South Wales after years of legal battles.

The approved extension comes after the Dartbrook mine was denied a five-year extension by the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) in 2019.

The now approved modification includes mining the Kayuga vein using the first edge and pillar method as an alternative to approved longwall mining.

In addition to approved operations, run-of-mine coal will be transported using licensed trucks on existing private roads to a new pit located between the existing private western access road and the New England Road.


Ardea Resources has been granted Major Project Status (MPS) for its $1.165 billion (KNP) Kalgoorlie Nickel project which includes a new mine and processing plant in Western Australia.

The project will see cobalt-nickel ore processed into mixed hydroxide precipitate, for use as feedstock in the growing international battery market.

Premier Scott Morrison has recognized the importance of projects of this nature.

“With 1,500 jobs every year for the three-year construction and 500 jobs every year for the 25-year operation, this project is a major project and will receive all possible support from my government,” he said.

MPS-awarded projects have access to additional support from the Major Projects Facilitation Agency, including having a single point of entry for Australian Government approvals, support and project coordination.


Morella Company has received approval from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) to use ground disturbance equipment on the Mallina lithium project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The Mallina Lithium Project is 120 kilometers southwest of Port Hedland and the project area is serviced by major roads, export infrastructure and access to a skilled labor force focused on the mining.

Morella has completed key environmental, social and governance (ESG) work streams in support of the company’s inaugural drilling program on the lithium project and is now focused on personnel engagement, equipment and project contractors for the imminent start of drilling.

About William J. Harris

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