Caval Ridge Project

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The Caval Ridge Project is a proposed open-cut expansion of the Peak Downs mine. It is a project proposed by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA).

The project is located 20 km south-west of Moranbah and north of the existing Peak Downs Mine, on the northern and southern sides of the Peak Downs Highway.[1]

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An Environmental Impact Statement has been completed. The notional commissioning date for the mine expansion is 2013. The project would produce 5.5 million tonnes of coking coal and employ 1200 people during construction and 500 when operating.[2][1]

In its July 2010 development report, BHP Billiton announced that the board had approved US$2.4 billion of "pre-commitment expenditure was approved to accelerate development" of four projects, one of them being the Caval Ridge project.[3]

A BHP Billiton spokeswoman, Fiona Martin, stated that the company expects final approval for the Caval Ridge coal project by the third quarter of 2011. Fiona Martin told Mining "final owner approval for the project is subject to completion of feasibility studies, estimated to be the third quarter of 2011."[4]

Greenhouse emissions

In a project summary on the project, BHP Billiton states that the total direct emissions "from sources within the boundary of the Caval Ridge Coal Mine project", from sources such as "diesel consumption in vehicles, explosives and fugitive emissions of coal seam gas", as 8.1 million million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents over the life of the mine. It estimates that a further 11.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents over the life of the mine from indirect sources such as "from the consumption of purchased electricity, steam or heat produced by another organisation. These include purchasing electricity for draglines, CHPP, lighting and facilities".[5]

They also estimated that 446.77 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the life o the mine from all other sources of emissions such as "the end use of coal, transport of coal via rail to the port, handling of coal at the ports and shipping of coal."[5]

BMA notes that "the end use of coal in metallurgical operations such as steel making accounts for 99 per cent of the Scope 3 emission sources considered in this assessment."[5]

In 2009, the total Australian greenhouse gas emissions, excluding those from land use, land use change and forestry activities, were estimated to be 537 million tonnes.[6]

Queensland government gives the project the go ahead

In the second last week of the 2010 federal election, the Queensland Labor government announced that it had given approval to the project "subject to a raft of strict development and operating constraints". (For the federal Labor government, Queensland electorates were crucial to retaining government, especially following the dumping of Queensland-based Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister). The go-ahead for the project was announced by Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, and Infrastructure and Planning Minister, Stirling Hinchliffe. Fraser released the Coordinator-General’s evaluation of the mine, which he stated would be provided to the federal Minister for Environment for assessment under Commonwealth environmental legislation.[7]

The Queensland Government's media release stated that the Coordinator General’s conditions require:

  • "A network of 16 air monitoring stations located around the mine and towards the Moranbah township";
  • "A Housing Impact Plan to provide worker accommodation and related accommodation in Moranbah"; and
  • "Implementation of controls to guard against adverse weather conditions".[7]

Fraser told ABC Radio that "this is a massive project, a $5.5 million tonne expansion, which of itself represents about 2 per cent just by itself of the total coal which is being exported in Queensland at the moment."[8]

A spokeswoman for BHP Billiton stated that BMA would "continue to conduct an open and transparent engagement process with stakeholders".[9]

Project details

In a January 2010 "Fact Sheet", BHP Billiton outlined the details of the project.[1] Lease size: 1425 hectares
Ownership: 50-50 joint venture between BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi Development Pty Ltd managed by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance
Production: 5.5 million tonnes per annum and process an additional 2.5 million tonnes each year from BMA’s adjacent Peak Downs Mine.
Commissioning: First coal expected 2013/2014
Mine life: more than 30 years
Export infrastructure: coal will be railed to BMA's Hay Point Coal Terminal

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, fact sheet: Caval Ridge Mine", BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, January 2010.
  2. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, "Minerals and energy: Major development projects", April 2010. (Pdf). The list is also available in Excel format here.)
  3. BHP Billiton, "BHP Billiton Exploration and Development Report for the quarter development report for the quarter ended 30 June 2010", Media Release, July 21, 2010.
  4. Esmarie Swanepoel, "BHP to conclude studies for A$4bn Caval Ridge mine in H2 2011", Mining, August 16th, 2010.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, "Caval Ridge Coal Mine Project: Environmental Impact Statement Community Overview", BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, July 2009, page 18.
  6. Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, "Australia's emissions", Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency website, July 28, 2010.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Treasurer and Minister for Employment and Economic Development, Andrew Fraser, "Caval Ridge Mine Clears State's Environmental Assessment", Media Release, August 12, 2010.
  8. Emma Pollard, "Timeframe for Caval Ridge coal mine expansion 'acceptable'", ABC News, August 13, 2010.
  9. Matthew Murphy, " Coking coal joint venture clears the green hurdle", Sydney Morning Herald, August 13, 2010.

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