Research & Development

Coal mine innovation

HRCM, together with strategic partners, is investing heavily in two key mining R&D projects to develop new knowledge.

Dry beneficiation

As part of our R&D efforts, HRCM is investing in research to develop X-Ray Transmission (XRT) for dry beneficiation to separate coal from non-coal bearing materials. Ultimately, this will make coal handling and screening more efficient.

We’ve been undertaking XRT dry beneficiation research since 2015. Together with a modified mine plan, XRT aims to allow lower bearing coal seams to become commercially attractive. This approach could result in an increased yield for HRCM’s coal mine from 65% to 78% or greater.

The Eagle is involved in the design of an embedded interface unit for XRT. The Eagle is an experimental remote sensing, measurement, control and communications platform.

End-to-end mining R&D

HRCM is developing a new and fully integrated mining process where safe mining and improved underground efficiencies are at the core. By applying end-to-end mining automation, we hope target production rates can be achieved where there are variable coal seams, like at our Fingal site. For HRCM, this could increase coal recovery rates from current levels of 65% to 80%.

Since 2016, this knowledge base R&D project has been supported by a comprehensive literature and technology review; showing that existing technologies do not meet the requirements of sites with variable coal seams.

Our end-to-end mining automation has a unique underground focus and involves:

  • incorporating various mining methods, such as recent micro-wall techniques and traditional bord and pillar operations
  • removing waste material using beneficiation technologies such as continuous haulage and subsequent treatment processes
  • combining our X-Ray Transmission R&D efforts to separate materials in an in-line end-to-end mining process – which has never been done before
  • developing a remote sensing, measurement, control and communication platform called The Eagle
  • having a centralised control hub for monitoring and management of mine operations – allowing the ability to track individual miners where conventional tracking technologies, such as GPS, fail
  • optimised power consumption
  • reviewing and integrating equipment

By maintaining an underground beneficiation focus we will reduce unnecessary haulage of waste material and reliance on port-based sorting.

Initial knowledge developed has included an assessment of risk benefits in thin and low seam coal mining. We are also looking at mining equipment selection for in-line processing.

To date, our greatest challenge lies in linking all the various underground mining processes in a complex and hazardous environment.