During the first quarter, Whitehaven Coal implemented an Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) for moving overburden, making it the first major coal operation to embrace autonomous mining. It also reported that the manning requirements at its Maules Creek mine have been fully filled and quarterly production was in line with expectations.

“During the quarter, we fully met our manning requirements at Maules Creek and are now investing in the skills development to achieve full utilization of equipment and productivity of our workforce,” Whitehaven Managing Director and CEO Paul Flynn said.

Maules Creek mined 2.36 million metric tons (mt) of raw coal during the first quarter of 2020, a 39% improvement over the previous quarter. Mining efforts during the previous quarter, however, were focused on overburden movement to support box-cut development.

The AHS system consists of a fleet of six Hitachi EH5000 trucks and an excavator. During the next quarter, additional labor resources will be trained and deployed to allow for seven-day operation of AHS by end of the second quarter.

Maules Creek’s year-to-date raw coal production is 17% below the same period last year, which was affected by labor shortages and production disruptions due to drought and bushfires.

Since December 2019, Maules Creek has been recruiting experienced and inexperienced miners to ensure the fleet is fully deployed by the end of the second quarter of 2020. The skill levels of the inexperienced miners is expected to steadily improve during the coming months.