Charles Macdonald

WICET stockpiles. Photo: WICET

From rail to sea: Dust control at Queensland’s new coal terminal

PHOTOS: Environmental impact on the surrounding community was a key consideration during construction of the new Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET). So from the rail unloading facility, all the way to the shiploader, the site is built to limit dust.

WICET made its first shipment of coal, amounting to 73,000 tonnes, in late April. A $3bn, 27mtpa facility, with considerable scope for expansion, WICET is built to provide additional export capacity at the Port of Gladstone, to service new mines and expansion of existing mines in the Surat and southern Bowen Basins.

It’s a green field coal terminal on Golding Point, located west of the existing RG Tanna Coal Terminal. The offshore wharf and loading facilities are situated north of Wiggins Island, adjacent to the Targinie Channel.

The rail unloading facilities are located immediately south of the North Coast Line and are connected to the Golding Point stockyard via a long overland conveyor.

The new WICET terminal was deliberately situated outside the built-up areas of Gladstone in order to reduce community noise and dust impacts. Coal trains to and from WICET bypass built-up areas of Gladstone.

The rail receival station is enclosed in order to increase operational efficiency and uses duplicated negative pressure bag filter systems to optimise air quality.


WICET rail unloading facility. Photo: WICET
Photo: WICET


An on-line moisture monitor analyses all arriving coal. When required, automatic sprays apply additional recycled water before coal is transported along the overland conveyor to the stockyard.

The overland conveyor structure, which transports up to 8250 tonnes of coal every hour, includes a tight-fitting wrap-around roof along its entire 5.6km length, to prevent strong winds creating dust. In fact, most elevated conveyors at the site are fitted with roofs, floors and walls on the windward side to shield product coal from strong winds.


WICET conveyor. Photo: WICET
Photo: WICET


WICET’s current stockpile area is around 1.25km by 535m, and is configured for 12 notional stockpiles in 2 rows, with an on-ground storage capacity of roughly 1.89 million tonnes of coal. The facility’s gantry stacker can automatically place coal anywhere on the footprint, and telescopic chutes which deposit the coal are fitted with internal counter-flow misting sprays which use recycled water to control dust during coal placement.

51 hi-flow water cannons are situated around the perimeter of the stockyard and along both sides of the central gantry, and are used to control dust in dry and/or windy weather. The stockyard’s water cannon control system uses real-time data such as wind-borne dust levels, and meteorological data such as wind speed, direction, air temperature and relative humidity, to activate groups of water cannons in defined patterns or sequences.


WICET water cannons. Photo: WICET
Photo: WICET


The final stage of the export process is the 1.8km jetty conveyor, which is fitted with a roof, a wall on the windward side, and a floor. The shiploader can operate at 8500 tonnes per hour, and its boom is also fitted with a roof, a floor and a wall.

All wharf conveyors are fitted with floors to catch coal spills, and the wharf conveyor tripper discharge chute contains a dust control spray system, which treats coal before it passes onto the ship-loader boom conveyor, and then down the loading chute into the ship’s hold.


WICET shiploader. Photo: WICET
Photo: WICET


This article originally appeared in Rail Express sister publication, the Australian Bulk Handling Review.

Brisbane suburbs and coal corridor. Graphic: The State of Queensland (Department of Natural Resources and Water) 2007

Mining body slams community train dust study

Community action group Clean Air Queensland will continue its fight against coal trains despite the Queensland Resources Council attacking its trackside dust study.

Clean Air Queensland (CAQ) released the results of its air quality monitoring study in early May.

The organisation says that, using industry-standard air quality monitoring equipment, its members monitored particle pollution levels along the Brisbane train line at Wynnum, Fairfield and Morningside.

CAQ is concerned that with an expansion of coal mining in south east Queensland, increased coal train traffic to the Port of Brisbane will have a deleterious effect on residents’ health.

The group says its study found “alarming rates of pollution in Brisbane associated with dust from coal trains travelling to the Port of Brisbane.”

According to CAQ’s publicity: “The study   ‘Health Hazard in our Suburbs’ – shows coal train pollution readings of 900 per cent above normal levels.”

CAQ spokesperson Michael Kane said the study showed coal trains were emitting “alarming amounts of pollution” as they passed close to homes, schools and workplaces.

“The report shows that coal trains are regularly emitting dangerous levels of air pollution in Brisbane suburbs and the government must now act to protect the community,” Kane said.

The day after CAQ’s study was released, peak state mining industry lobby group Queensland Resources Council (QRC) said it was deeply flawed and misleading.

QRC chief executive Michael Roche said the monitoring carried out by CAQ was unsound and the report wouldn’t stand up to peer review.

“It’s hardly surprising that this group, which includes anti-coal activist groups including Lock the Gate, 6 Degrees and Friends of the Earth would come up with such a report,” Roche stated.

“I would challenge them to undertake independent and peer-reviewed monitoring, which the coal industry has been doing along the rail corridor to the Port of Brisbane for more than two years.

“They undertook only nine monitoring sessions, utilising a method that is not consistent with the Australian air quality standards.

“They admit themselves in the report that they don’t know the distribution of air particles beyond the railway line.

“It’s also telling that they ignored some results from coal, freight and passenger trains that passed during the monitoring period. One would have to wonder why.

“In addition, the study included no wind direction monitoring, which means they would have no way of knowing the origins of the dust measured.

“More than two years’ worth of data from industry-funded monitoring, using methods consistent with the National Air Quality Standards, is in the public domain. I would urge people interested in learning more about air quality along the corridor to visit the Queensland Government’s air quality website where the results of the independent monitoring are reported in near real time.

“Industry has nothing to hide, as evidenced by the fact that since the start of continuous monitoring, the only instances where recorded air quality was above the national standards were independently found to be unconnected to coal-dust emissions, and usually a result of either bushfires, dust storms or track and road maintenance.

“Veneering, which is used on all Queensland coal trains to minimise dust emissions, is world-leading practice and the Queensland Department of Health noted in the 2013 independent dust monitoring findings, that ‘for people living along the rail corridor, the dust concentrations measured during the investigation are unlikely to result in any adverse health effects.’

“I would urge the Queensland Government to see this report for what it is – just another attack by anti-coal activists on our coal sector, which in 2013/14 directly employed more than 26,000 people full time, spent more than $15 billion in the state and contributed almost $2 billion in royalties to the government.”

Clean Air Queensland appeared undaunted by Queensland Resources Council’s salvo.

It said that “instead of trying to shoot the messenger, the Queensland Resources Council should support community efforts to keep Brisbane free of coal dust pollution.”

Community efforts to directly monitor coal dust are only set to grow.

A recent post on the home page of Clean Air Queensland’s web site said that “We are using the same Osiris dust monitors used in the last study and are looking for people to assist who can give 4 or more hours a week.

“Volunteers will be trained to become community scientists and use the Osiris monitoring equipment to collect data on passing coal trains. No experience is necessary.”

This article originally appeared in Rail Express sister publication, the Australian Bulk Handling Review.

Rolling stock with Fletcher livery. Photo: Fletcher International Export

Case study: Rail investment part of broad rejuvenation plan

Animal products manufacturer Fletcher International Exports is using its own rolling stock as part of a recently updated production process in NSW.

Fletcher has large pastoral holdings in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, with abattoirs in Albany and Dubbo.

A private family-owned company that has grown substantially over the last 35 years, its origins relate back to Roger Fletcher when he started as a drover in outback NSW. The company supplies sheep meat, wool and by-products to over 90 countries around the world.

From its inland abattoir location of Dubbo, it rails its product to seaports for export.

Fletchers recently purchased its own rolling stock of three locomotives and 62 wagons to run between Dubbo and Botany three times a week.

The rail also transports the company’s grains, pulses and livestock.

But its investment in rail has allowed it to expand its Dubbo operations, with Fletcher now supplying a cement/slag product to nearby mines.

Cement and slag arrive from overseas in bulk bags at the railhead, where the new handling system is installed.

For 11 years, Fletcher’s rail head unloading system was part of a different operation, and handled limestone and soda ash. But bulk handling engineer Kockums Bulk Systems, which originally installed the system at a Melbourne plant in 1997, was able to help Fletcher convert it for its new use.

Originally designed to load silos with powders tipped by a front-end loader, Kockums was able to adjust the system so it can be fed with bulk bags straight from the rail head. Once loaded into the system, the product is kept in silos, which load the product into trucks for localised distribution.

Commencing a new operation for the old equipment meant the need for refurbishment of valves, air filters and silo aeration systems to bring the equipment back to ‘as new’ condition.

“I was pleased to see the quality of the installation, which is achieving the high rate of 32 tonnes per hour throughput from product arriving in bulk bags. It is good to see a system rejuvenated and performing well, meeting a new need,” Kockums director Ivan Price, a part of the original installation of the bulk system in 1997, said.

“I congratulate Fletchers on their engineering expertise and how they handled the process in an efficient and effective manner.”

This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared in Rail Express sister publication, the Australian Bulk Handling Review.

Programmed gets Skilled

Labour hire company Skilled Group has agreed to be taken over by Programmed Maintenance Services.

Programmed will acquire Skilled by way of a scheme of arrangement which will see the former’s shareholders receive 0.55 Programmed shares plus $0.25 cash per Skilled share, resulting in Skilled shareholders owning 52.4% of the combined entity.

The offer is valued at $1.79 per share based on Programmed’s last closing price and represents a 45.5% premium to Skilled’s closing price on 22 May 2015, the trading day before the announcement of discussions between Skilled and Programmed.

Skilled’s directors are urging shareholders to vote in favour of the scheme, in the absence of a higher offer.

Skilled chairman, Ms Vickki McFadden said, “The near term financial benefits to Skilled shareholders resulting from this transaction are compelling. The combination of Skilled and Programmed creates the opportunity to unlock substantial synergies in the first year following implementation, and beyond.

“The combination will create a larger, more diverse business with the funding flexibility to support a range of organic growth and acquisition opportunities, and an enhanced equity market position.

“Our two organisations share a focus on delivering solutions that make our clients more productive and competitive. The company’s enlarged scale in staffing, maintenance and facilities management will facilitate lower costs, better customer service and enhanced organic growth opportunities.”

Chris Sutherland, Programmed CEO, will lead the combined organisation and as such, Angus McKay, Skilled CEO, will leave the company.

Bradken boss to retire

Long time Bradken CEO and MD Brian Hodges will step down from the company in a difficult period as it fends off predators and struggles to cope with a moribund mining market.

Hodges spent 18 years at Bradken, taking the company from a modest domestic foundry business to a global consumables and capital products business including locomotive components, transit undercarriages and sub-assemblies.

Bradken rode high in the saddle during the mining boom, with its share price going over $14 in late 2007.

Now, however, the company is struggling, with its share price trading around $1.75.

In April, Bradken rejected a takeover offer for $2.50 per share lobbed by Koch Industries and Pacific Equity Partners, deeming it “not fair value”.

In 2015, Bain Capital and PEP had offered $5.10/share, but the bid fell through.

Bradken chairman, Hon Nick Greiner AC, said “I would like to pay tribute to Brian for his dedication to Bradken.

“Brian has led the business since the time of its IPO in 2004 and during this period he has transitioned Bradken to be a global and low cost manufacturer of differentiated products for a number of industrial sectors. Brian initiated a number of initiatives including our manufacturing footprint in China and India that will enable us to maintain our competitive edge.”

Monadelphous and WICET go head to head

It’s lawyers at nine paces as Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) and engineering group Monadelphous take to the courts in a bid to resolve disputes over construction contracts for parts of Queensland’s newest coal terminal.

Monadelphous holds a 50% interest in MMM, an unincorporated joint venture between itself and Malaysia’s Muhibbah construction.

MMM entered into two contracts for the construction of the approach jetty and ship berth, and shiploader, associated with Gladstone’s WICET.

According to Monadelphous, work under the contracts is complete and MMM has been granted practical completion.

Monadelphous said in a press release on Monday: “MMM has to date received successful adjudication from the Building and Construction Industry Payment Agency (a Queensland statutory agency designed to facilitate the adjudication of payments in the construction industry by expert adjudicators) for payments relating to the contracts totalling approximately $90 million. The company expects further claims to be lodged with BCIPA in the near future as it expects that WICET will, as has previously occurred, reject future submitted progress claims.

“WICET has filed a claim relating to the MMM contracts in the Supreme Court of Queensland totalling approximately $130m (net of the proceeds of bank guarantees) plus general damages, interest and costs, in which it seeks to recover monies, the majority of which include those paid to MMM under BCIPA and variations previously approved by WICET. The claim names the MMM joint venture parties as defendants, along with each of the respective parent companies.

“Monadelphous rejects WICET’s position as outlined in the claim and will vigorously defend the proceedings. Further, it will pursue a counterclaim through MMM in excess of $200 million to recover costs associated with changes in scope and nature of the works required to be completed, and the value of bank guarantees drawn down. Monadelphous considers that MMM has good grounds for making such claims.

“Monadelphous prides itself on its trusted and long-term business relationships. Over the last 25 years Monadelphous has never instituted legal proceedings against a customer, nor has any customer previously filed a similar claim against the company.”

Monadelphous managing director Rob Velletri said the company had a proud track record of delivering solutions for customers.

“We are very confident that we have met our customer’s requirements, which is something our 4,500 employees have been consistently doing for the past quarter of a century,” he said.

“Despite our best efforts to resolve all outstanding issues with WICET, and considering that we have previously received successful adjudication from BCIPA in respect of many of these issues, we believe WICET’s actions in filing such a claim are unwarranted.

“This is an unusual and non-preferred situation for Monadelphous given our traditional partnership approach with clients, but we are confident of our position and we will stand our ground, supported by a strong balance sheet.”

In a detailed rebuttal to Monadelphous’ interpretation of events, WICET posted its own press statement. It said that:

“WICET today confirmed that it has instigated proceedings in the Supreme Court of Queensland for recovery of amounts paid on account to MMM.

“Whilst MMM has been granted Practical Completion under the contracts, WICET has not certified Final Completion. MMM has ongoing obligations under both contracts to rectify any defects encountered by WICET during the defects liability periods.

“WICET regrets having to commence legal proceedings in order to recover moneys owed by MMM. The four other major contract packages for construction of the Terminal have been finalised to the satisfaction of WICET and its contractors without resorting to the Courts.

“Unfortunately, MMM has previously chosen a litigious path for resolution of its claims. MMM has launched three BCIPA adjudication applications since June 2014 in which it claimed additional payments of $440m (approximately double the original contract sums) and was subsequently only awarded $81m (or 18% of the claims made by MMM).

“WICET has paid the amounts awarded to MMM under the BCIPA adjudications (and all amounts previously certified as owing by WICET). However, payments made pursuant to BCIPA adjudications are interim only and WICET is now exercising its rights to seek a final determination of the adjudicated claims in its Supreme Court proceedings.

“Throughout the course of the contracts, MMM’s claims have been difficult to validate. This issue was recognised by the Adjudicator in the most recent BCIPA award: ‘I accept [WICET’s] comments that the payment claim was both confused and confusing. The payment claim could not be understood at a rudimentary level …The documentation in support of each claim is hard to understand, and in some cases the documentation is incorrect or incomplete, or both.’

“Consistent with the findings of the Adjudicators, WICET has been unable to properly assess MMM’s claims as MMM has failed to provide evidence and substantiation in support of its claims. In fact since October last year, despite repeated requests, MMM has continually refused to provide additional information in support of its claims. WICET has recently been forced to apply to the Courts (at significant expense) to prompt this request.

“WICET also confirms that it has called on bank guarantees issued by MMM amounting to approximately $38m. MMM has made a number of unsuccessful attempts in the Courts to prevent WICET exercising its contractual rights to call on these guarantees.

“MMM first commenced Supreme Court proceedings in October 2014 to prevent WICET calling on the bank guarantees. Judgment was given in WICET’s favour in December 2014 after MMM lost its case in Queensland’s highest Court, the Court of Appeal.

“MMM then commenced new proceedings to recover approximately $32m of the bank guarantee proceeds. However, in a judgement issued on Friday 12 June 2015 (during suspension of trading of Monadelphous shares), the Supreme Court rejected MMM’s claim with confirmation that WICET is entitled to retain the proceeds of the guarantees. Monadelphous failed to acknowledge this decision in its 15 June 2015 statement to the market despite being aware of the outcome.

“WICET has also encountered difficulties resolving claims by Sinostruct, a Monadelphous Group company which provided fabrication works at the WICET Terminal. On Friday 12 June 2015, WICET called on bank guarantees of approximately $6.9m to recover monies owed to WICET under its contract with Sinostruct. These guarantees were issued by Monadelphous. Monadelphous also failed to note this in its subsequent release to the market.

“WICET will continue to manage the project construction schedule and costs closely in accordance with contract entitlements. The recent milestone of loading the first ship before 30 April 2015 was significant by its achievement within the forecast timeframe.”

This article was originally published on our sister publication, Australian Bulk Handling Review.