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EMR Capital’s other coking coal mine – Kestrel, Queensland

EMR Capital, the company that owns 81% of the proposed West Cumbria Coal mine, is currently operating another coking coal mine – Kestrel.

The Kestrel mine is an underground mine located in the Bowen Basin in central Queensland. The Bowen Basin contains the largest coal reserves in Australia.

The mine produces twice the annual output proposed for West Cumbria, at 5.56 million tonnes a year. The Kestrel coal mine is not without controversy, which could occur in West Cumbria if the mines started. See below for recent issues for workers, subsidence and with polluted water discharge which at Kestrel could affect the Great Barrier Reef or the coast at Cumbria.

There is not a strong campaign focus against Kestrel coal mine specifically, as in 2021, Australia had 94 operational coal mines, coal and a much lower population density than in the UK. The mine has operated since 1992.

Like the proposed West Cumbria Coal mine, Kestrel is not owned and operated by just one company.

“Both EMR and Adaro are keen investors in Metallurgical Coal.”[1]

Kestrel mine is owned by Kestrel Coal Resources (80%) and Mitsui Investments (20%). Kestrel Coal Resources is made up of 52% EMR Capital, with Adaro Capital Ltd owning the other 48%.

Location of Kestrel coal mine

Key facts

  • Coal type: coking coal
  • Location: central Queensland
  • Traditional owners of the land: Western Kangoulu [2]
  • Area: 17,000 hectares
  • Depth: 350m to 400m [3]
  • Seem depth: 3m [3]
  • Annual coal sales: 5.56 Mt (2021) [4]
  • Main markets: India, South Korea, and Japan [4]
  • Mining started: 1992 [5]
  • Expected closure: 2032 [5]
  • Reserves available until: 2046 [6]
  • Further expansion?: Likely [7]
  • Employees: approximately 660 [2]
  • Mine’s direct annual emission position in Australia (2019-2020) 9th [9] out of approx 94 mines [8]
  • Previous owner: Mitsui Investments (20%) and Rio Tinto (80%) share sold to EMR Capital and Adaro Energy in 2018.
Kestrel coal mine from https://www.mining-outlook.com/commodities/coal-mining-sector/kestrel-coal-resources-mining-for-a-legacy-worth-leaving/4

Controversy

Protests and disputes

There were workers disputes at the mine in 2022 over job contracts, including redundancy policies, health insurance policies and our incentive bonus policy. The Mining and Energy Union vice president criticized Kestrel over the ongoing saga. [10]

The mine was for sale in 2022. It does not seem to have found a buyer.

Threat at a local level

The traditional owners of the land are the Western Kangoulu people who co-operate to some extent with the miners, but say “the sectors activities also present a large threat to the protection of cultural heritage and values with extensive and irreparable damage being done to the land resources of the Western Kangoulu area.” [11]

Environmental issues

Lock the Gate has highlighted that “Central Queensland coal mines are releasing billions of litres of polluted water many times saltier than the receiving rivers in the catchment of the Great Barrier Reef, prompting concerns about the ecological health of impacted waterways.”

According to the Environment Department’s figures, Kestrel, in Jan 2023 was releasing the equivalent of an Olympic-sized swimming pool of water every eight seconds into Crinum Creek.

The Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland director said, “It’s particularly galling that even coal mines that publicly claim to be ‘zero-discharge’, such as Kestrel, are releasing thousands of litres into Central [Queensland] creeks every second which will be carrying sediment to the Reef.” [12]

Subsidence

There has been subsidence at the Kestrel mine, this was likely planned. The area over the mines is mainly agricultural. Subsidence is where the ground sinks after coal mining has cleared an underground void and the rock roof is allowed to fall in, causing disruption at ground level.

At the Kestrel mine there is recorded subsidence of 1.6m to 2 m down the centre of the 250 m wide panels. These panels are approximately 4km long.” At the Kestrel site this affects the hydrology of the area. Similar subsidence, were it to take place, at the currently proposed West Cumbria coal mine, would cause disruption on the sea bed. If this is expected a license for the mine is required from the Marine Management Organisation. As “subsidence increase[s] permeability and porosity”. [13]

References

1 https://kestrelcoal.com/stakeholders/

2 https://www.mining-outlook.com/commodities/coal-mining-sector/kestrel-coal-resources-mining-for-a-legacy-worth-leaving/3

3 https://www.mining-outlook.com/commodities/coal-mining-sector/kestrel-coal-resources-mining-for-a-legacy-worth-leaving

4 https://www.adaro.com/pages/read/7/22/mining

5 https://www.gem.wiki/Kestrel_mine

6 https://www.mining-outlook.com/commodities/coal-mining-sector/kestrel-coal-resources-mining-for-a-legacy-worth-leaving#small-but-mighty

7 https://www.mining-outlook.com/commodities/coal-mining-sector/kestrel-coal-resources-mining-for-a-legacy-worth-leaving/7

8 https://www.ga.gov.au/digital-publication/aecr2023/coal

9 https://www.lockthegate.org.au/flatulent_narrabri_underground_expansion_would_be_most_polluting_thermal_coal_mine_in_australia_for_direct_greenhouse_emissions

10 https://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/central-queensland/business/kestrel-coal-mine-dispute-over-employee-agreement-between-emerald-miners-and-kestrel-coal-resources/news-story/51458de7ad16d0214fc17426a2b9a1cf

11 https://lumburrabimbi.com.au/western-kangoulu/

12 https://lumburrabimbi.com.au/western-kangoulu/

13 file:///home/anne/Lechner2014Theimpactofundergroundlongwallminingonprimeagriculturalland.pdf Referencing Gullo D. 2006. Kestrel coal mine: subsidence and agriculture. Central Queensland Mining Forum. 18 October 2006. Fitzroy Basin Association, Emerald, Queensland, Australia., Booth & Spande, 1992; Potentiometric and aquifer property change above subsiding longwall mine panels, Illinois basin coalfield. Ground Water 30: 362–368., and Booth, 1998, Impacts of mine subsidence on groundwater. In Proceedings of Prime, Farmland Interactive Forum, Hooks CL, Vories KC, Throgmorton D (eds). Department of Agronomy, Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Southern Indiana: Evansville; 143–148.).

 

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