The Coal Handling and Preparation Plant, located at Bulga Coal, operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and has a capacity of 20Mtpa Run of Mine (ROM) Coal. It currently processes approximately 16Mtpa ROM coal from both Bulga Coal Surface Operations and Bulga Underground Operations.
Once mined, the coal is transported to the Coal Handling and Preparation Plant where the minor waste component, usually clay or sandstone, is washed away. The waste is either disposed into tailings dams or thickened and co-disposed in the overburden dumps.
The coal is broken down to particles of less than 125 millimetres in a crusher and then washed, screened, rinsed and dewatered.
The product coal handling facilities include dual product conveying systems from the plant out to the stockpiles. They also include separate stockpiling and reclaiming facilities for coking coal and for thermal coal. The combined capacity of the product coal stockpiles is 1,000,000 tonnes. Clean coal is reclaimed from the product coal stockpiles and loaded into a 1,500 tonne train loading bin. Trains are loaded from this bin at a rate of up to 3,500 tonnes per hour. The Bulga Complex loads on average 35 trains per month with each train carrying 8,500 tonnes. The coal is then transported from site to the Port of Newcastle via rail for export.
In 2010, the Preparation Plant successfully installed a paste thickener, the first of its kind in coal processing. The aim of the paste thickener is to thicken tailings which saves on water, power and reduces space required for tailing storage. Bulga Coal was awarded Minerals Processing Plant of the Year in the 2010 Australian Mining Prospect Awards largely due to the commissioning of the Paste Thickener.
Xstrata Coal’s new rail fleet Xstrata Rail commenced haulage operations in January 2011. The fleet is servicing all Xstrata Coal NSW operations in the Hunter Valley including the Bulga Complex, complementing existing services provided by Pacific National. With an initial haulage capacity of 12 million tonnes per year, the current fleet of 3 trains comprises 10 locomotives and 300 wagons. A further 3 trains will be in operation by late 2011.