A MASSIVE mine development near Moranbah will need hundreds of workers in the next three years, as it prepares to export coal for almost half a century.
The Eagle Downs underground project from Aquila Resources has been under construction since September 2011 but will not need the majority of its labour until next year.
When that happens, Aquila and Brazilian joint-venture partner Vale will require up to 500 workers to build plants and infrastructure on the site.
Once finished, the Perth-based firm will seek almost 400 more workers to run the mine.
Eagle Downs is projected to export an average of 4.5 million tonnes of metal-making coal per year for the first decade of mining, with the ability to hit 8 million tonnes per year after a major expansion.
It would export through the planned Dudgeon Point coal terminal near Mackay in Central Queensland.
Aquila general manager of coal Stephen Pilcher told APN industry conditions were turbulent, but it was “not a bad time to be constructing a coal mine”.
The firm was saving money by hiring workers left in the cold by other mining companies looking slash costs.
Coal prices too may prove less of a concern for Aquila with the miner able to turn a profit even if export coal prices remain stagnant.
HSBC Bank suggested this week that while China’s manufacturing levels were not growing as quickly, they were still growing, meaning demand would remain for Australian minerals.
The size and scale of Eagle Downs is comparable to the Caval Ridge project from BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance – projected to mine 5.5 million tonnes of coal per year for three decades – and Anglo American’s Grosvenor mine, projected to export 6 million tonnes over 26 years.
For now, Aquila has about 40 workers on site but that would increase to 70 within the next 18 months.
After that, worker numbers will ramp up.
“The peak workforce won’t be there until 2014 or 2015,” he said.
“We’re talking 400 to 500 people at that time.
“(Once operating) it will be between 350 and 380 people, including permanent employees and contractors.”
Eagle Downs will begin exporting samples of its coal in 2015, increasing to full production from 2016.